La Serie del Vampiro Lawson (an interview with my translator)

By Jon F. Merz

I’ve often said that I have the most incredible fans in the world and I truly believe that. For proof, you need look no further than the wonderful Virginia Truett, who has just finished translating THE FIXER and INTERLUDE into Spanish for me. As a big fan of the series, Virginia was the perfect pick for me to hire to do the translation work. She knows the series, she knows Lawson. And since this will be my first foray into the Spanish market, I had to make sure I had the best. With Virginia, I got it. So I thought it only right that I bother her with a few questions about the great work she did for me.

1. You’ve been a fan of the Lawson Vampire series for awhile now. What is it about the series that you enjoy so much?

There are a number of things I enjoy about Lawson. The action and humor are the first that come to mind. I’ve always liked action films. Especially those with the most amount of sword fights, hand to hand combat, and intrigue. So, I was totally hooked by the second chapter of the first book I read. It was The Invoker, I hadn’t realized it was part of a series and I had to back track a tad.

Another aspect that caught my attention was how well developed and strong the characters were; mainly those who would have normally been placed in a less empowered positions. Talya and Jack (a woman and a child) are very strong and memorable characters who wield true, yet subtle, power throughout the stories. I find that to be very good.

Overall, I had such a good time reading that Lawson quickly became a favorite. I had started reading the series with no expectations and I got a ton of fun instead. Can’t complain about that.

1. Has sido fan de Lawson por un tiempo ¿Qué te llama la atención acerca de la serie? ¿Y por qué la disfrutas tanto?

Hay un número de cosas que me gusta acerca de Lawson. La acción y el humor son lo primero que viene a la mente. Siempre me han gustado películas de acción. Especialmente aquellos con más cantidad de peleas de espada, combate mano a mano e intriga. Por lo tanto, no fue sorprendente quedar totalmente embebida en la historia desde el comienzo del primer libro que leí. Era The Invoker, no sabía que era parte de una serie y tuve que tomar un par de pasos hacia atrás para continua la seria desde un principio.

Otro aspecto que me llamó la atención fue lo bien desarrollado que estaban los personajes; principalmente aquellos que normalmente se encuentran en una posición más débil. Talya y Jack (una mujer y un niño) son personajes muy fuertes y memorables que ostentan el poder verdadero, pero sutil, a lo largo de las historias. Me parece muy bueno.

En general, pasé tan buen rato con la lectura que Lawson se convirtió rápidamente en una de mis series favoritas. Había iniciado de la serie sin expectativa alguna y me divertí mucho. No me puedo quejar.

2. I think it’s great that one of my biggest fans also happens to be the translator, rather than someone who has never read the books. What were some of the challenges you faced bringing The Fixer to the Spanish-speaking world?

It has been an interesting experience to say the least. Was it challenging? Definitely. Translating a book is more like rewriting the story in a different language. It takes a lot conceptualization work because language and culture are intimately linked, and what works in one language (expressions, etc.) might not work in another. So, one has to convey the same point or idea but may not be able to use the exact same words to get the specific point across.

In order to do this I had to ask myself “how would a man like Lawson say that in Spanish?” Basically, I had to understand him well. And that has a lot to do with understanding the author.

Writers mostly write about what they know. It is obvious that you have given Lawson a part of you. His training (Ninjutsu and military experience) and various specific tastes (Bombay Sapphire, etc.) clearly come across as the author’s personal facets. This challenged me to make sure the moral essence of the character and the story were kept intact and followed the path you wanted it to take. But, I had to do it in Spanish.

Though the story takes place in Boston, Lawson needed to sound like Spanish was his first language. A Spanish speaking man of Lawson’s caliber, background and personality would express himself a certain way. They do so in English too. And this is where it got tricky. Spanish is the same throughout, but colloquial phrases can be very regional. I had to make sure to use expressions that would be easy to grasp by anyone from Mexico to Argentina and across to Spain, and still convey the same feeling and point you wanted the reader to get. Also avoiding sounding forced or sterilized.

It was quite a trip and I had some funny moments. I remember voicing out certain expressions while I typed, as my husband calls it, with “purpose”, and he gives a funny, puzzled look ‘cause I’m saying it with a smirk on my face. Let’s just say that I now have an extensive list from which I can draw Lawson’s repertoire for “choice” words.

2. Creo que es genial que una de mis mayores fans también sea la traductora, en vez de alguien que nunca ha leído los libros. ¿Cuáles fueron algunos de los desafíos que u enfrentaste al traducir The Fixer al español?

Definitivamente que ha sido una experiencia verdaderamente interesante. Definitivamente que no fue fácil. Traducir un libro es más bien reescribir la historia en un idioma diferente. Toma mucho trabajo de conceptualización porque la lengua y cultura están íntimamente vinculadas, y lo que funciona en un idioma (expresiones, etc.) podría no funcionar en otro. Así que uno tiene que transmitir la misma idea pero si utilizar las mismas palabras exactas para expresar el la idea específica.

Para ello tuve que preguntarme “¿cómo un hombre como Lawson se expresaría en español?” Básicamente, conocer a Lawson muy bien y tener una buena comprensión del personaje. Para esto uno tiene que conocer y tener un buen entendimiento del autor.
Los autores escriben sobre lo que conocen. Es evidente que le has dado a Lawson una parte de ti. Su formación (Ninjitsu y experiencia militar) y diversos gustos específicos (Bombay Sapphire, etc.) claramente provienen de las facetas personales del autor. Mi desafió fue el asegurarme de que la esencia moral del personaje y la historia se mantuvieran intactas y fueran las mismas que tú querías tomaran. Pero tenía que hacerlo en español.

Aunque la historia toma lugar en Boston, era necesario que Lawson se expresara como si el español fuera su lengua materna. Un hombre con el calibre, los antecedentes y la personalidad de Lawson, se expresa en cierta forma en español. De la misma forma lo hacen en inglés también.

Y es aquí donde se complican las cosas. Aunque el español es el mismo en todo el mundo, las frases coloquiales pueden ser muy regionales. Tenía que asegurarme de utilizar expresiones que serían fáciles de comprender por cualquier persona desde México a Argentina y España, y aún transmitir el mismo sentimiento e idea que el autor desea que el lector capte. Al mismo tiempo tenía que evitar que la historia sonara forzada o esterilizada.

Tuve algunos momentos divertidos. Recuerdo en ciertas ocasiones cuando me decía a mi misma en voz alta algunas expresiones interesantes mientras escribía con “propósito”, como dice mi esposo, y él me mira con una mirada curiosa y perpleja porque lo estoy diciendo que con una sonrisita en la cara. Podemos decir que ahora tengo una lista muy extensa de la que puedo sacar un buen repertorio para uso como palabras predilectas de Lawson.

3. EBooks are a fairly new thing for a lot of countries outside the US. Do you expect the Spanish market for ebooks to take off as it has in the English-speaking markets like the US and UK?

Though it is true that Ebooks as an industry are somewhat new outside the US, the concept of downloading a book and reading it on the laptop or tablet isn’t at all new. In Latin America, books that are traditionally published (in print) in Europe or the US are expensive (at least double the price) and can be difficult to get because bookstores can run out quickly. With the advantages of Internet access, people have been able to search for EBook versions to fulfill their needs. I believe that having more Ebooks easily available in the market will certainly be welcome.

Yes, there are potential customers who are still attached to the idea of a “real book”, but I see many more that are happy with Ebooks.

3. Ebooks o libros digitales son algo bastante nuevo para muchos países fuera de Estados Unidos. ¿Crees que el mercado ebooks en español despegará como lo ha hecho en los mercados de habla inglesa como el Reino Unido y Estados Unidos?

Si bien es verdad que la industria de libros digitales es algo nueva fuera de Estados Unidos, el concepto de descargar un libro y la lectura en el portátil o Tablet PC no es nada nuevo. En América Latina, libros que son publicados tradicionalmente (impresos) en Europa o Estados Unidos son costosos (al menos el doble del precio) y pueden ser difícil de conseguir ya qué pueden agotarse rápidamente. Con las ventajas de acceso a Internet, las personas han podido buscar versiones de EBook para satisfacer sus necesidades. Creo que el tener más Ebooks disponibles en el mercado será bienvenido.

Sí, hay clientes potenciales que todavía están aferrados a la idea de un “libro verdadero”, pero veo muchas más que están contentos con libros digitales.

4. What is it about Lawson that you think will appeal to Spanish readers who might not have ever read about him before?

First of all, let’s face it, vampires are popular right now. And they’re popular in the Spanish speaking market too. That is definitely good for Lawson. Just like in the US, there are many readers who do not favor the “sparkly kind” and prefer an edgier character and story. That is also good for Lawson.

There also seems to be a trend among the twenty-something crowd to like Japanese television, music and culture. Although Lawson is not precisely in that category, there is a definite influence there. The main character’s love and knowledge of Japan and his Ninjutsu background are hard to miss. Especially throughout The Kensei.

The entire concept of a Vampire Ninja, commando-spy and close range action is very entertaining and appealing; no matter what language you speak.

4. ¿Qué aspectos de Lawson crees que atraerán a los lectores de habla hispana que no han leído nunca la serie?

En primer lugar, seamos realistas, los vampiros son populares hoy día. Y también son populares en español. Eso es definitivamente bueno para Lawson. Al igual que en Estados Unidos, hay muchos lectores que no les interesa mucho un “vampiro que brilla” y prefieren un personaje e historia de carácter más amenazante. Eso también es bueno para Lawson.

También he notado una tendencia entre jóvenes de unos veinte y tantos años a los cuales les gusta la televisión, la música y la cultura japonesa. Aunque Lawson no está precisamente dentro de esa categoría, existe una clara influencia. Amor del personaje principal y su conocimiento de Japón, con su entrenamiento en Ninjitsu no pueden pasar desapercibidos. Especialmente a lo largo de The Kensei.

El concepto de un Ninja vampiro, comando-espía y combate mano a mano es muy entretenido y atractivo; sin importar el idioma.

5. Your own background in the military and living in Panama as you do gives you great insight into Lawson’s character. Did you have any interesting thoughts about the character as you worked on the translation? Is he ready for a global audience?

I must admit that I was able to sympathize with Lawson a lot. I understood his sarcasm, frustration, commitment, and conflicting emotions. I really wanted to highlight that. There is a certain attitude found in military, and former military, men and women throughout the world; regardless of the country. A certain approach to things, a marked intolerance for ignorance and idiocy. That observation made it easier for me to think of Lawson as primarily Spanish speaking and have a better idea how a man like him would express himself in Spanish.

I can’t say if Lawson is ready for a global audience, but he has many likeable aspects that make him appealing to many different people in any market. As I mentioned before, the Vampire Ninja and commando-spy concept is very enticing. Also, Lawson and Talya’s relationship adds a touch of “humanity” to Lawson. It is very romantic, and women love a man who is willing to sacrifice for them, so that’s another point to widen the market.

5. Tu propia experiencia en las fuerzas armadas y el residir en Panamá te dan una perspectiva detallada con relación al personaje de Lawson. ¿Tienes algunas reflexiones interesantes sobre el personaje que tradujiste? ¿Crees que Lawson está listo para una audiencia global?

Debo admitir que pude simpatizar mucho con Lawson. Comprendí su sarcasmo, frustración, compromiso y emociones contradictorias. Realmente quería resaltarlo. Hay una cierta actitud en militares y ex militares, hombres y mujeres en todo el mundo; independientemente del país. Un cierto enfoque a las cosas, una marcada intolerancia a la ignorancia y la idiotez. Esta observación hizo más fácil para mí pensar en Lawson hablando español y tener una mejor idea de cómo un hombre como él podría expresarse en el idioma.

No puedo decir si Lawson está listo para una audiencia global, pero tiene muchos aspectos simpáticos que le hacen atractivo a muchas personas diferentes en cualquier mercado. Como he mencionado antes, el concepto de vampiro Ninja y comando-espía es muy tentador. También, la relación Lawson y Talya añade un toque de “humanidad” a Lawson. Es muy romántico, y las mujeres aman a un hombre que está dispuesto a sacrificarse por ellas, eso es otro punto para ampliar el mercado.

6. You did an amazing job on the translation of The Fixer. What’s up next for you and the Lawson Vampire series?

Thanks Jon! It has been an amazing experience. What’s next? Well, can you guess what El Evocador means?

6. Has hecho un trabajo increíble en la traducción de The Fixer. ¿Qué es lo siguiente para ti y la serie de Lawson?

¡Gracias Jon! Ha sido una experiencia verdaderamente increíble. ¿Qué es lo siguiente? ¿Bueno, adivina lo que significa El Evocador?



Kindle US | Kindle España
Nook | Kobo

Kindle US | Kindle España
Nook | Kobo

Rise of the Authorpreneur

By Jon F. Merz

The big news this morning from Publishers Weekly is that bestselling author Terry Goodkind is going to self-publish his next novel. This is yet another indicator that there are seismic shifts happening and the ground beneath the feet of traditional (or legacy) publishing is cracking open and threatening to swallow a whole industry that has grown complacent thanks to its massive ego and basic business incompetence. I’ve talked about this for awhile now. Publishers still do not get it. As recently as last week, Stephen Zacharius of Kensington Publications Corp. (yes, the very folks who published my first four novels) commented on another blog about the “benefits” that traditional publishers offer authors – in other words, he trotted out the same tired bullshit lines about marketing, editing, ad infinitum. I responded on the blog, but my comment was never approved due to the proclivities of the blog author himself, but regardless – Zacharius’ claims are still a heaping, steaming pile of BS.

Marketing? Of the novels I’ve had traditionally published, not one got any sort of marketing push behind it. And Kensington’s own marketing plans for the first four novels of the Lawson series were supposed to include “National TV, radio, and print campaign” as was written on the cover flats they sent me. Yeah, right. Those plans never amounted to anything and I was forced to send out my author copies just to try to drum up reviews in major trades at that time.

Editing? Of all my traditionally published novels, exactly ONE has ever gotten editing done on it. Editors don’t edit any longer; they spend their time trying to acquire products and then have to pitch them to rooms filled with so-called professionals who claim to know what the reading public wants, but are, in reality utterly clueless about that very thing. (Exhibit A: my YA novel THE NINJA APPRENTICE was rejected everywhere with comments like “boys don’t read,” and “no commercial appeal” – since its debut as an ebook on May 8th, it has sold more than 1500 copies, garnered seven 5-star reviews, and is on the summer reading list at North Providence High School)

The fact is we are seeing a fundamental change in the entertainment industry. For far too long, writers have been marginalized by the industries they support. Look at the film/TV industry – if you don’t have writers, you don’t have any of the other industries that rely on those writers. No actors, no editors, no VFX, no nothing. Without writers, the industry has squat. The same for publishing. Without writers, you don’t have agents, editors, copyeditors, cover artists, sales reps, etc. etc. You would think that because writers are so important to so many people, they’d be willing to give us a decent share of the profits. You would, of course, be wrong. Writers have always settled for pennies. No doubt this is partly due to the insecurity that plagues the profession. “Oh, you think my story is good? Really? Wow. Cool.” Writers – especially new writers – lack confidence in what they produce. This has enabled the other industries to undermine their worth and get away with paying us far less than we deserve.

Right up until a few years back when the Kindle debuted.

And now, look where we stand – at the door to a whole new world of opportunity. Writers, for the first time, have control. We can publish our work independent of the massive, bloated conglomerations that dominate NYC publishing and we can do so while earning a 70% royalty on our work instead of the 17.5% that NYC wants to pay. We can set our own prices and then test those prices to see what the market will bear. We can change cover art if it’s not drawing consumers. We can tweak product descriptions. We can even go back to our backlist and re-edit the books if they don’t read well enough. We can respond to market changes faster than ever before. We can interact with readers, build our audiences, and enjoy a richer future than we dreamed possible before. In the past, the only way to assure our financially secure future was to hope and pray that one day the gods of NYC publishing would look down and bestow upon us a gifted position on the NY Times bestseller list along with six and seven-figure advances. It happened for a tiny minority of writers. The rest had to be content to scrimp and save and work-for-hire on jobs that paid them just enough to stay above the poverty line. Some of these writers had no health insurance; some saw their savings vanish in the economic crisis.

No longer.

This is the time of the AUTHORPRENEUR – an author unafraid to step boldly into the future and embrace the technology that puts them in charge of their own destiny. Authorpreneurs are business-savvy: they study the industry and learn what is working, what is changing, and how they can position themselves to take advantage of it. Authorpreneurs are never complacent: they continuously work on their craft and goal of becoming better writers and they never settle for what worked yesterday. Authorpreneurs wear many hats: in the beginning, they do it all – editing, rewrites, cover artist hiring, formatting, marketing – and they study the business world constantly for new ideas and innovations that can help them reach their audience.

Most importantly, authorpreneurs remember the importance of their readers. Our lifeline is the people who read our work. Without them, we have nothing. But unlike NYC publishers, who have tried to price-gouge consumers with ridiculously high ebook prices and attempted to wave off complaints by insulting the intelligence of those readers with comments like “it costs a lot to make an ebook,” authorpreneurs will never take readers for granted. We will always appreciate readers and give them their esteemed position within the equation. Writers and readers are the two most important parts. Everyone else is just in the middle…or in the way, if you prefer.

The rise of the authorpreneur is at hand.

And it’s about time!

The Freedom of Choice

By Jon F. Merz

One of the best things about being an author in the 21st century is the freedom of choice. For years, writers have been forced to accept whatever terms NYC publishing houses deemed generous in order to get our books out to the masses. Since NYC houses had a monopoly on the distribution system (unless an author could afford to print and distribute their own work) authors, if they had any hope at all of achieving their goals of being published, had to accept those terms as part of doing business.

No more.

With the advent of ebooks and both the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook, authors now have the freedom to choose how they get their work to readers. They can opt to stay with NYC houses or they can go the indie route. Both options have their pros and cons. Let’s look at them:

Traditional or Legacy Publishing Route – PROS

  • Public Perception: the reading public still tends to think that self-published work is of lesser quality. (This, of course, is erroneous and the perception is changing albeit slowly.) A book “vetted” by NYC still looks better to consumers than an indie one.
  • Paper Distribution: your book is available in major chains like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Powell’s, and a few others. Indie bookstores might order it or they might not.
  • Marketing: this is a BIG MAYBE. There’s always a chance your book is gifted with marketing dollars and the publisher actually puts some muscle behind you in order to move copies.

Traditional or Legacy Publishing Route – CONS

  • Advances: the average advance for a debut novelist AND a midlister with experience is now just $5,000 bucks. That’s it.
  • Royalty Rates: digital is becoming king but publishers still try to take as much as they can. The ebook royalty rate is 25% NET, which equals a measly 17.5% after your agent takes a cut.
  • Accounting: Ever seen a royalty statement? They’re virtually impenetrable unless you know what you’re looking at. You get two of them each year. If your book is selling well, that means you get paid TWICE each year. That’s it.
  • Reserves Against Returns: since publishing uses this bizarre business model that should have been abolished eons ago, they hold back a large chunk of any money you made in case bookstores return unsold copies of your book for credit. Your royalty statement might show that you earned our your advance and are due say, $3500, but since your publisher think stores might ship back unsold copies of your book they’re just going to hang on to that $3500 for now. They *might* release *some* of it in the next statement, or they might hang on to it a little while longer. That means they’re earning interest off of your money.
  • Reversion Clauses: your print book might go the way of the dinosaurs, but that doesn’t mean it’s out-of-print anymore. Nowadays, your ebook will be available pretty much forever. That means any hope you have of getting your rights back one day is about as likely to happen as you suddenly tripping over a spaceship.
  • EBook Price: most NYC ebooks are horribly overpriced. No one should be paying $16.99 for an ebook. No one.
  • Editing: if you have any hope of being edited by some prestigious editor, think again. Editors don’t edit anymore. Of the 30 novels I’ve published – exactly ONE of them got any edits at all.
  • Time: publishers can take up to TWO YEARS from the time you sign the contract until the book actually makes it out into stores. That sort of time span might have worked before the dawn of the Internet, but things move MUCH faster these days.
  • Cover Art: You don’t have any say over cover art. Get rid of this fantasy right now. When St. Martin’s picked up THE KENSEI and I talked to them about the branding we were doing with the TV show and how it would make perfect sense to have brand continuity between the book and TV show to help build an audience, my suggestions were completely shot down and overruled. They presented me with a cover I hated and I demanded changes. They made a few slight changes. But the point here is that if they couldn’t even see the rationale behind building brand continuity for a series heading to TV, there’s no chance in hell they’re going to listen to you.
  • Attitude: The publishing industry is full of people who *think* they know what the reading public wants. And they like to prattle on endlessly about their skill in picking new bestsellers and all that related horse crap. The fact is, NYC editors have no greater understanding about consumer mentality than you or I do. After all, these are the same wizards who brought you novels by Snooki. When my novel THE NINJA APPRENTICE was making the rounds in NYC for eighteen months, my agent heard all manner of astoundingly stupid comments like “boys don’t read,” “this would be great if the hero was a girl,” and “this doesn’t have any commercial appeal.” THE NINJA APPRENTICE, since its debut on May 8, 2012, has gone on to sell over 1300 copies, garnered nothing but 5-star reviews, and been selected as summer reading choices for several high schools and literacy groups.

Indie Publishing – PROS

  • Complete Control: Over everything. Cover art, layout, editing, copyediting, price, everything. You get to write what you want, when you want, knowing you can always publish it. Want to write a novel about brain-eating pixies from the alterna-Earth Paleolithic Era space twinkies? You can. And even if you only sell a few copies, you can still make pizza money writing it.
  • FREE to publish: It doesn’t cost you a damned thing to sell your work. There are no upfront fees with Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You *should* invest in a good cover design and ebook formatting, but in terms of actually publishing fees, there are none.
  • Monthly Paycheck: This is huge. 60 days after you start selling your book, you will start getting paid every single month via direct deposit into your bank account. March sales show up in your account at the end of May.
  • Royalty: If you price your book between $2.99-$9.99 on Amazon, you earn a 70% royalty rate. That’s a better rate than ANYONE who has ever been traditionally published.
  • Changes: Spot an error in the book? Open the file, make the changes, and re-upload it. That’s it fixed.
  • Time: Your book enters the upload pipeline and is available within 48 hours – as compared to up to TWO YEARS with traditional publishers.
  • Distribution: your book is available all over the world, depending on the platform. You now have global reach. With traditional publishers, you’d need to wait until you sell foreign rights in order to get that same distribution.

Indie Publishing – CONS

  • Public Perception: consumers might think your book quality is not good enough without a stamp of approval of NYC publishing. This sentiment is changing, however, and you can help further that change by ensuring that your cover looks as good or better than what NYC covers look like, your book is as error-free as you can get it, and your price point is reasonable.
  • Distribution: you don’t get a presence in stores that carry print books.
  • Many Jobs: You do it all: write it, edit it, promote it, check sales, etc. It can be overwhelming if you don’t discipline yourself on how to make time for all the tasks.
  • Stupid Commentary from the Entrenched: Clueless authors who have gotten wealthy from the old way of doing things are some of the most vociferous defenders of a failed system. They don’t want these changes because it represents a threat to their way of life (hmm, sorta sounds like the political landscape in this country right now…) They know that the digital revolution levels the playing field and they’ll no longer be at the top of the heap. So they write dumb letters (Scott Turow, president of the Author’s Guild, wrote a stunningly stupid piece defending the old publishing model – crazy since it was coming from an organization ostensibly devoted to protecting authors NOT publishers.)

So there’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of each. There is one more PRO to the indie publishing movement, however, and that is technology. Technology continues to move forward and more players are entering the publishing world all the time. Just this morning, Kobo announced its own self-publishing portal along the lines of Amazon’s KDP and Barnes & Noble’s Pubit! program. Along with Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and iBooks, there are now FIVE platforms indie authors can use to get their work into the hands of readers and earn a decent living doing so. I expect we’ll see more platforms arriving soon as well.

It’s a great time to be an author. The freedom of choice is something we’ve never had before, but thanks to the technology of the 21st century, we can now do what we love to do and earn a decent living doing so.

Advice for New Indie Authors

By Jon F. Merz

I chimed in earlier today on Brian Keene’s blog about guest poster Glen Kirsch writing about his success with indie publishing and folks wondering whether Brian would be well-advised to think about a similar route. I posted a few of my own experiences to-date, but it got me thinking about what my advice would be to new writers and older, established writers who are considering the indie route. So here, then, are my thoughts on the topic. Bear in mind, this is my opinion only, but it’s based on roughly eighteen months worth of sales data.

NOTE: for the purposes of this post, I’ll assume your books are thoroughly awesome and reader-ready. No need to rehash the tired old maxims of “rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.”

1. Buy Scrivener: Scrivener is a fantastic word processing program that I now use for all of my writing. Coming from MS Word, it was a bit of a learning curve, for sure, but Scrivener boasts some excellent video tutorials that explain everything. Scrivener’s best feature is “compile,” which allows you to take your manuscript and turn it into an ebook, perfectly suitable for uploading to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as any other platform (iBooks, Kobo, etc.) that use the .epub file format. Scrivener formats both for Kindle (.mobi format) and regular .epub format. It’s quick, easy, and saves you a ton of money that you’d otherwise have to pay a professional ebook formatter. You can order Scrivener using these links (and yes, I am an affiliate, but only because I love the product so much!) Buy Scrivener 2 for Mac OS X (Regular Licence) | Buy Scrivener for Windows (Regular Licence)

2. Find an Artist: Find a great cover artist who can turn out NYC-quality cover art for your books. The goal is to NOT look indie. You don’t want consumers passing your books by because of sub-standard covers the scream indie publishing. Like it or not, many readers still equate indie publishing with self-published vanity crap. Your goal is to visually align yourself with the stuff coming out of New York, even if you’re doing the indie route. To that end, you need a damned good cover artist to render some great covers for you. I have a fantastic graphic designer who handles my Lawson Vampire series covers, re-did a cover for my horror novel Vicarious (I did the original), and even created the look for my latest release THE NINJA APPRENTICE. Consider the fact that paying for a great cover is an investment in your business. People tend to be visually-oriented, especially when it comes to online book shopping. You want something that really looks great, still looks good shrunk down to thumbnail size, and excites readers.

3. Write a Series: Seriously. If readers like your series, they will be anxious for more and that means you now have a built-in audience ready to buy your next adventure. So if you intend to create a series, get with your cover artist above and develop a “look” for the series. Going back to my Lawson Vampire series for a moment, you’ll notice that all of the covers feature Brandon Stumpf, the actor who plays Lawson in THE FIXER TV series. The font is the same, the design is the same. My graphic designer and I have built up brand awareness with these covers, even going so far as to do color overlays to help readers know at a glance that the blue overlay means it’s a novel, green for novella, and red for a short story. This is the kind of thing that you, as an indie author, now have complete control over. Use it to maximize your new business.

4. Build Your Personal Brand: Okay, you’re an author. So what? So are a veritable ton of other people. A bestselling author? Again, so what? In this day and age, you need to find something about yourself that is hopefully unique (or at least rare) and then use that to help you establish your author brand. I thought long and hard about what I do and who I am and eventually distilled my platform down to three things: writer, producer, ninja. I obviously write books, but I also have a production company with my good friend Jaime Hassett. And then I’ve been studying authentic Ninjutsu for over twenty years. There aren’t too many other authors who can say the same thing. So it works. Now, if you go to my Facebook fan page, or my Google+ page, or my Twitter account, or my LinkedIn page, or pretty much everywhere else, you’ll see that tagline: writer, producer, ninja. It’s been working very well for me and helps people quickly gain insight into what I do.

5. Study Social Media: The indie publishing route is far more effective today thanks to the rise of social media. You absolutely, positively NEED to study this stuff. I know, I know…so many of you are going to whine about not having time to write and all that related bullshit. Get over it. If you’re going the indie route – even partially – then you need to understand what the hell is going on with social media. It’s not enough to have an antiquated Livejournal account: hardly anyone is there anymore. (Don’t believe me? While Livejournal might have just over 37 million accounts, of those only 1.7 million are “active in some way” according to Livejournal’s own stats. And only a bit over 125,000 have updated in the last 24 hours.) You need to have a Facebook Page, a Google+ page, and a Twitter account at the very least. Then you need to know how to use those platforms to their maximum effect. Each is different. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Also, you need an active blog and a well-designed, visually-attractive website. I know a lot of horror authors who think that the bleeding eyeballs are the coolest thing ever. Maybe. But not on your professional website. Remember, this is a business now. Those days of doing the writer/hermit thing are over. You want to do indie and make a good living, you need to get out there and press the social media flesh.

6. Study Celebrity: You might laugh at this, but there are lessons to be learned from people who make their living in the public spotlight. They know how to interact with people, get their fans excited, and more. Writers have typically shunned such things in the past, but again, the indie route necessitates at least some interaction with the world at large. So the next time you attend a writer awards function, leave the Wrangler acid-washed jeans and death metal T-shirt at home. Instead, opt for a button-down shirt, blazer, dressy jeans, and shoes. Make sure how you present yourself in public matches up with how you portray yourself online.

7. Go Global: Understand that the indie route means you are going global. Amazon has storefronts in a half dozen countries right now with many more to come. Barnes & Noble has also talked of its intentions to go global. That means your book written in English is available in countries where English is not the first language. That’s great because it enables you to reach more consumers than previously possible with traditional publishing. It should also prompt you to think about getting your work translated. You’re no longer limited by the traditional distribution of foreign rights – meaning that if you sold rights to a German publisher, your book would only be available in Germany and anywhere else that particular publisher had the ability to distribute it. Now, you can get that book translated into German and sell it on Amazon’s German store platform and in every other Amazon country platform (potentially reaching many more German-speaking consumers than you would with a traditional subrights deal).

7a. Open Your Mind: This goes along with #7 above. The marketplace is global, so that means you will interact with people from all over the world. To that end, make sure you don’t come across as a raging racist xenophobe extremist homophobic piece of puke. Seriously. Cleanse thyself of such nonsense. Understand there are crazy people everywhere on this planet – but that there are also great people everywhere on this planet. Their views, religions, lifestyles may not be what you think is “correct” or “right” or what have you, but you need to respect them regardless. Don’t let yourself be known as a small-minded pinhead. There’s nothing unique or appealing about it.

8. Get a Newsletter: While social media is great, nothing beats having a newsletter list that is consistently growing and enables you to talk directly to thousands of people on a weekly or monthly basis. People who have subscribed to your newsletter are giving you implicit permission to talk to them directly via their email. Don’t abuse that privilege. Offer newsletter subscribers something each month – special exclusives like news, fiction, etc. I run a serialized Lawson adventure each month in my newsletter. It’s a freebie that I include as a way of saying thanks. That’s bundled around news, blog posts, advertisements of my books, shout-outs for friends of mine who are doing good for others, and more. Get a professional newsletter design, pay a monthly fee for an email service provider that offers up stats like open rate, click through rate (and URL destinations) and more. It’s another investment in your company that is well worth the cost. Then build up that list of subscribers. The more, the better.

9. Give To Get: Give more of yourself, not less. Talk to your fans and readers. Interact. The social media world means that people talk. A LOT. If they comment on your page, send you a Tweet, or an email, then you’d better be there to respond. I’m not saying drop everything and be available 24/7. But be ready to make an effort to communicate more readily. If these people are spending their hard-earned money on your products, you need to be willing to talk to them. Many companies are finding out the hard way that ignoring customers is about the worst thing you can do. And the companies who are succeeding are finding that the more they engage with their customers, the better their reputation becomes and the more people spend on their products, talk up the company, etc. etc. If one of your fans is having problems, try to help them in some way – even if it’s just taking the time to send a special email. Treat your readers and fans like gold, because they are. This isn’t something to fake – you have to be sincere in this appreciation or else people will abandon you for another author.

10. Study Tangential Businesses: More studying? Yep. Grab a few minutes of Bloomberg Television in the morning while you much on your Honeycombs. Pick up an issue of Fortune or Entrepreneur. Learn about emerging tech businesses that might impact digital publishing or spark an idea on how you can position yourself to take advantage of things long before anyone else does. Back when Myspace was relevant, I was the first author to reach out and partner with them on a serialized Lawson adventure THE COURIER. Myspace hyped it; I hyped it, and I accumulated a ton of new fans over the month-long project. That’s just one example. Savvy “authorpreneurs” (a phrase I’ve coined for this new generation of indie authors who are smart) are always on the lookout for new opportunities.

11. Set a Production Schedule: New material is essential in the indie age. A novel a year is not enough. I’m ramping my own production schedule up so that I have something new coming out every other month – whether it’s a short story, novella, novel, or non-fiction piece. If you’re still under contract for projects, split your time between working your contracted stuff and your indie stuff. Give the people what they want – and what they want is more stuff to read.

12. Expect Cycles: This is new territory and nothing is predictable…yet. 2011 started off amazing for me, but then I went through a sales slump. Even during my worst month, I was still selling several thousand ebooks and making thousands of dollars, but it was a far cry from Spring 2011. So expect that things may be up one month and down the next. The key is to never have to rely too heavily on any one single title. This is why #11 is so essential. If you can reasonably expect that each novel in your virtual shelf will sell, say, 50 copies each month then that is somewhat bankable. Multiply that across a half dozen titles and now you’ve sold 300 ebooks and made anywhere from $600 bucks to several thousand. As long as you reach that minimum threshold each month, you’ve got the makings of a fairly consistent income. And then every time you add a new title, you’re basically giving yourself a raise. Not bad.

Best of luck as you forge a path in the indie world. I hope this post has been useful to you. If you’ve enjoyed it, please share it around with others. Thanks for reading!

More Steps to EBook Success…

By Jon F. Merz

I’m having my best month of ebook sales so far in 2012 so I thought I’d share some of the steps I’ve been taking to increase my sales. I outlined a lot of practical steps – including the best piece of software you can use to help boost your ebook sales in my book: HOW TO REALLY SELL EBOOKS (which was written after I wasted five bucks reading another author’s account of how he sold one million ebooks but failed to list anything concrete that he did beyond a blog) but here are a few other steps I’m doing right now to help things along even more.

1. Production Schedules: Depending on how quickly you work, I think it’s vital to come out with new material at LEAST every few months. Debuting new material allows you to promote it and simultaneously call attention to your other works. I’m aiming for new stuff every other month. I’m not necessarily talking a new novel every other month – it can be as small as a new short story. The key here is consistency and an ever-increasing amount of ebooks for your growing fan base to pick up. People want new stuff faster and the old days of only a novel every year are well and truly gone.

2. EBook Anthologies: This is going to piss a lot of people off, but every time I see someone else soliciting stories for an e-anthology, my first reaction is “why on earth would I waste my writing for it?” The fact is, any writer can put that story out themselves at a 99 cent price point and earn 35 cents and 40 cents (Amazon and B&N respectively) with each sale. And rather than getting lost in the table of contents with other authors (who may or may not help sales depending on the quality of their work) you can put it out yourself, increase your own virtual shelf space, and help further your own brand. Royalty sharing among ebook authors (unless it’s a novel collaboration) is no way to generate any sort of income. Of course, if Stephen King drops you an email and asks you to be in his anthology, that might be a different story.

3. Free Ebooks: Stop. Just stop. Everyone is doing this now, which means you absolutely should NOT be doing it. Further, while I know everyone wants to get exposure and introduce the world to your writing, the simple fact is, if you’ve labored long and hard on your book, then you shouldn’t give it away for free. Perception is reality and if people see you don’t value your own work, then they’ll never value it either. It’s worth something – even if it’s only 99 cents. But free? No way. There’s such a glut of free ebooks out there now, you’ll never get any sort of exposure anyway. It’s wasted effort that you could be using to sell copies of the work in question. Want exposure and reviews? Recruit a few keys friends or fans and give them a copy in exchange for them talking it up and posting reviews about it. Yes, it’s free to them, but there’s an exchange of value going on – they get the ebook and you get some definite exposure and reviews out of it.

4. Stop Book Launch Events on Facebook: Learn to use Facebook Pages for your author stuff. Creating a new event every time you have a book launch splits up your audience and then forces everyone you invite to receive email every time you post an update on the event page. It gets annoying very quickly. Announce your books on your Author Page and if you need help setting them up properly, I wrote up a few posts in the past on how to do it here and here. Remember: your goal is to build your audience, not annoy them. Plus, the more things you invite people to, the less likely they are to attend. Give them one page on Facebook to focus on, not thirty.

5. Write a Series: if you’re only writing standalone novels, I suggest you start writing a series. Now. Why? Because if your series is good and people like it, you will have a built-in audience for future installments. Plus, new readers will discover your series and you’ll keep building it. But if you keep writing standalone novels, then maybe the subject matter doesn’t click with certain folks. A series is a definable product and provided they like the characters, readers will keep coming back for more. I would argue there is more inherent value in continuing a series than there is in a standalone. My Lawson Vampire series now stands at seven novels, five novellas, and seven short stories. Each month, the series earns me roughly 85% of my income as compared to my various standalone novels. It is well worth your time developing a series.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll share it with others!

THE NINJA APPRENTICE Heads to Africa

By Jon F. Merz

I am very pleased to announce that I have signed on with Worldreader.org to donate copies of THE NINJA APPRENTICE to their amazing program that brings e-readers and ebooks to children living in under-developed regions in Africa. Worldreader distributes Amazon Kindles to the children and then Amazon “pushes” the free ebooks to the kids, who get to choose books to read on them for free. It boosts literacy, aids in their education, and their ability to improve their station in life. I heard about this organization, based in Seattle and Barcelona, yesterday and knew I wanted to get involved. It took no time whatsoever, and now thousands of kids will get a chance to read about Jimmy’s wild and crazy adventures as he tries to restore his family’s honor. Worldreader has already sent 100,000 ebooks to these kids and their aiming for ONE MILLION.

Worldreader has partnered with many publishers and authors to help expand their programs in Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya and soon Rwanda. After launching, they soon found some pretty dramatic effects: “After 9 months the biggest gains were realized from the 4-5th graders; in 8 months kids were reading 50% more in volume, their rate of reading increased by 30% when measured by wpm and they were excited about great content… win win win!!! Textbooks – novels – the Atlas – all kinds of knowledge and information. ”

So awesome. And this is just one more indicator of the technological shift away from paper. This program would not have been possible using printed books. It’s only with e-readers and ebooks that such a thing is possible. I’m grateful to be able to contribute in this small way and hopefully give those kids a fun, exciting read. I don’t know how many Ninjutsu practitioners there are in Africa (outside of South Africa, which has a few dojo) but there might be several more once these kids meet Jimmy!

If you’re an author with middle grade to YA fiction and would like to help out, make sure you have the rights to your work or that your publisher is interested in participating, and then contact Michael Smith at Worldreader.org. For authors, it’s a simple, one-page contract – quick and easy. For me, it was a no-brainer to get involved and do some good. I hope my writer friends feel the same. Writer & non-writer friends can also head to the Worldreader.org website and donate money or get involved to help them send more Kindles to the kids in Africa.

Clone Your EBook Success

By Jon F. Merz

Imagine if you were a corporation and you sold several products, one of which sold better than any of the others. That one product was responsible for bringing in more revenue than any of your other products. Looking at your numbers each month would hammer that home and probably make you wish there was a way to clone that product so you could double the revenue it brought in. Or pretend you make good money at your job and wished there was a way to double that income. Before, you’d have to take on a second job, but you could only do so much until you burned out. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

For writers, books have traditionally had this feature built in to them. When you sold North American rights, you, as the author (or your agent), could then turn around and sell those rights to foreign publishers who would translate the book and bring it out in whatever market they operated in. Many times, the sale of foreign rights brings in staggering sums for bestselling authors and much more modest sums for midlist authors. Perhaps the book earns out enough to generate royalties, but that isn’t often the case.

With the advent of ebooks, however, the author has far more control over that “cloning” process. Entrepreneurial authors – or as I like to call them “authorpreneurs” – who view their writing careers as a business will be keen to capitalize on the incredible potential that now exists. Let’s take a look at it in-depth.

This is the cover for the Spanish-language edition of the first book in the Lawson Vampire series, THE FIXER. EL EJECUTOR is nearly finished being translated by a fantastic friend of mine and should be on-sale the first week of June. THE FIXER consistently sells hundreds of copies each month on its own and its impact on my bottom line is huge. It is a solid earner, and as such, I want to clone that success. So I paid to have it translated into Spanish, which is one of the largest market demographics in the world. According to recent statistics, upwards of half a BILLION people speak the language globally. That’s a market I want a piece of!

The translation costs were an investment into my business. In order to make money cloning the success of THE FIXER, I had to first invest the capital to pay for its translation. I consider that money well spent. As more and more people turn to ebooks, the number of people who will start reading my Lawson series will also climb. And if the series is available in multiple languages, then I can exponentially increase my profit potential on each book I write. After several months of strong sales, the translation cost will be earned back and then the real fun starts.

Here’s one of the coolest things: even though El Ejecutor is written in Spanish, it will be available in every single one of Amazon’s Kindle stores. Think about that for a moment. Using the old business model of publishing, if you sold Spanish rights to your novels, then the books would only be available wherever the publisher had distribution. But with Amazon, El Ejecutor will be available in the US for Spanish-speakers, in Amazon ES, their official Spain site, as well as Amazon UK, France, Germany, Italy, and many more coming down the road. So now instead of a fragmented distribution that used to happen with foreign rights sales, you have the SAME global distribution that you do with a book written in English. Suppose there’s a Mexican ex-pat living abroad in Italy, for example, and he wishes he could read something in his native tongue but can only surf for ebooks on Amazon’s Italian website? No problem, El Ejecutor is sitting right there ready to be bought. BAM! Sold!

The point is, with Amazon’s global storefront you not only have the opportunity to get your translated ebooks into the hands of the particular demographic you’re trying to reach in their home country, you can also reach them wherever they might be across the world! This is huge. It increases your chances of finding new readers in places you might not expect. Whereas before if you had a book out in Germany, you might only reasonably expect to find it in German bookstores and perhaps a few specialty shops here and there. Now, you can have that same ebook available to Germans in Germany as well as Germans anywhere else in the world – or at least anywhere else Amazon has a storefront at this moment. (But believe me, Amazon will soon have storefronts everywhere…)

You are truly cloning your success when you get your ebooks translated. And each time you add a new translation, you’ve just cloned it again. Instead of doubling your profit potential, you can triple it, quadruple it, and so much more. And you don’t have to worry about earning out advances, reserves against returns, or any of the other stupid antiquated business machinations left over from the decaying publishing industry. Amazon pays you net 60 days every single month via direct deposit. You’ve just potentially doubled your money without having to do anything beyond the translation! No extra work, you don’t have to write the novel again, you don’t have to devote any extra time. Translated. Done.

To say I’m excited about debuting THE FIXER in Spanish is an incredible understatement. I’m beyond excited. I don’t know how sales will go, obviously, but ebooks are a long-term investment. They earn forever. And as more and more people flock to ebooks, the profits will continue to escalate. Once the initial investment in translation has been earned out, that ebook goes on to provide income – passive income at that – forever.

And that ain’t too shabby.

The Greatest Fans In The World…

By Jon F. Merz

Last night I had the opportunity to interact with my fans on a whole new level – a virtual author event that brought video conferencing to a whole new level. Shindig, a company based in New York City, hosted me on its incredible platform that can handle thousands of guests in multiple rooms, as well as show video clips, pictures, and more all during the event. It’s a fantastic way for authors, musicians, TV folks, and producers to get in touch with fans and drive interest and buzz around their projects. After trying it last night for the first time, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s easy-to-use and the learning curve is remarkably slight.

I’ve been pushing this event for about a month now and really cranked it up these last few days. We had a ton of RSVPs and around 50 people showed up for the actual event. I spoke for about 25 minutes on where Lawson came from, the evolution of the series, the trials and tribulations of publishing, and then into the production of THE FIXER TV series. And then I hit the audience with a never-before-seen clip from the show itself. 54 seconds of the flavor, feel, and look of the show and the whole cast. It was awesome seeing the reactions on the faces of the attendees as they watched and the feedback was immediate and intense. I’m still getting emails about it. Suffice it to say, THE FIXER is really going to blow socks off when we debut the pilot.

After the clip, I had a Q&A session and fielded questions on everything from cover art to ebooks to the cast from THE FIXER to my latest project THE NINJA APPRENTICE. And when folks had a question, the Shindig platform allowed them to “come up on stage” with me if they had a web camera operational and actually share the cyber spotlight. Otherwise, folks could type in questions and the moderator Eric would relay them to me.

This was new ground, but if you read yesterday’s post on creating your own opportunities, you’d see how this all dovetails together. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to hold this event if I hadn’t heard about it from my good friend who is very much in the same mindset as me about exploring new avenues and chances for exposure and success. Shindig is new technology and I think it’s incredible stuff.

The best part of last night was getting the chance to meet some of my many fans. And seeing the folks who showed up really made it clear just how lucky I am to be able to do this for a living. The time slot was tough on some folks’ schedules and a lot of my fans couldn’t make it. But despite the fact that they missed the event, they still wrote and told me how much they wished they could have been there. And that means the world to me.

I’ve often said that my fans are truly the greatest people in the world. I mean that. Some attendees last night were actually at work; some were in other parts of the world where it was either late at night or in the very wee hours of the morning; and still others had rushed home from work to attend. We had media in attendance as well as one or two high-level executives in some very interesting companies. It was a very impressive array of people in the audience and being able to speak to them was an honor and a privilege.

So thank you to everyone – ALL of my fans – whether you made it last night or not. I know you’re out there and I want you to know that I sincerely appreciate you counting yourself among my readers, fans, and friends. You’re the best. Absolutely, unequivocally the best.

We’ll do more of these events in the future and I can’t wait to meet even more of you face-to-face. Have a fantastic weekend and thank you again!

:)

Wacky Wednesday

It’s been a while since I’ve celebrated how awesome my fans are. So I thought today would be the perfect day to do that. I’m on a push to have new readers discover my writing and become fans, so with that in mind – and if you’re interested – I’ll be doing a bunch of giveaways today throughout the day. There are several ways you can win something:

1. Buy my ebooks

Jon on the Kindle | Jon on the Nook | Jon on iBooks | Jon on Smashwords

Now, when you buy my ebooks, make sure you send me a copy of the receipt so I can log it into my special Wacky Wednesday spreadsheet. Your receipt won’t have any confidential data like charge card numbers or anything (or you can just take a snapshot of the receipt with the date (today) and what you bought) and you should send this receipt to me at this email address: jonfmerz AT gmail DOT com

2. Subscribe to my FREE monthly newsletter by typing your email in the box below and clicking submit – it’s EASY!

Email Address

3. Retweet on Twitter and be sure to include my handle @jonfmerz in your retweets.

4. Share my Facebook Fan Page on Facebook / Share any links to my ebooks on Facebook and then be sure to mention me in a note or something on your profile page, encouraging others to check out my work, “like” my page, etc.

5. Oh, and be sure to Like my Facebook Fan Page!

6. Follow me on Pinterest and Re-Pin My Boards.

And throughout the day, I’ll be pulling random names and giving away some cool stuff, including signed copies of my books, cover flats, and more. Nothing too insane (it’s only “Wacky Wednesday” after all) but enough cool items to make participation fun. Check out the pic below to see what you could win – including the ULTRA-RARE “Dumbass” Cover Flat for THE FIXER, in which the genius working assumed my name had an H in it and printed a whole bunch. (This incident is also known as Jon’s First Publishing Rant)

Everything gets a nice personalized autograph and I send it right out to you for years of enjoyment. And of course, the value will skyrocket when I get incinerated by a giant solar flare during my audition on the next season of America’s Got Yodel.

All right! Get going! The first winner will be announced soon!

Coming Soon…

With March drawing to a close, I thought it would be a good time to update you all on what will be coming out for the rest of the year, what I’m working on, and assorted tidbits like that. So here goes…

Current Works-in-Progress

  1. Mission: Malta – this special novella for newsletter subscribers is running each month, but I’m going to be finishing it shortly and putting it out for sale so those fans who want to read ahead can do so. It will still be free to newsletter subscribers, but if the chapter-per-month thing is too slow, you’ll be able to grab it ahead of time.
  2. CODENAME: Belladonna – Talya’s first spin-off novel from the Lawson series. Hoping to have this finished sooner than you think ;)
  3. Shadow Warrior: The Undead Hordes of Kan-Gul – this is the first book in the alternative Earth sword & sorcery series I’m writing for Baen Books. The first book is due to my editor by June for a Spring 2013 debut in bookstores everywhere.
  4. The Next Lawson Novel – yep, it’s in the works. And no, I’m not revealing the title yet because I want to surprise all of you. Because, y’know, I’m a devious tease…
  5. Lawson: Ten Year Retrospective – a special ebook of the past ten years of Lawson Awesome.
  6. YA Series Proposal – Lots of research going into this, so stay tuned.
  7. Adult Thriller Series Proposal – no supernatural craziness in this one. Just straight up violence, mayhem, and assorted chaos.

With that list in mind, be on the look out for new releases from me around the following months:

May 2012
July 2012
October 2012
December 2012
January 2013

And maybe one or two extra surprises…I know, a lot of teasing here, but good things are definitely ahead. So stay tuned and alert to my Facebook Fan Page for all the latest. And be sure you sign up for my FREE newsletter to get even more tidbits.