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!

:)

Create Your Opportunities

By Jon F. Merz

I was reading a great post by my friend and fellow ninja Chris Penn the other day about taking the long view and how the ninja masters of old would often put things into motion years if not decades prior to them coming to fruition. It got me thinking about a habit I have of creating opportunities and how it mirrors the actions of those same jonin from feudal Japan.

Our society tends to focus on the immediate, short-term, instant gratification. And with the economy being what it is, for some folks, they can only focus on the immediacy of where their next meal is coming from or how they’re going to pay the mortgage this month. I know. I’ve been there.

But even if you are still in a precarious situation, you can still take steps now that may eventually bear fruit. After all, the ninja leaders of old didn’t have a crystal ball they could look into and see which of their plans would eventually work. They had to take steps that ensured no matter what the outcome was, they were positioned to derive maximum benefit and security from it. As Chris wrote in his article, these jonin would often dispatch field operatives years in advance and allow them to work themselves into positions of power where once they were needed, they would be above suspicion.

Imagine doing the same in your life. You put things into motion now – even little things that don’t obviously seem to have much tangible benefit – that might one day play a critical role in your success. I’ve been in the habit for a while now of reaching out to all manner of people whether I know them or not. I make it a point to establish relationships, even if it’s as seemingly superficial as simply saying hello to them. As time goes by, the relationship develops beyond the superficial until I good conversations, talk to them about their lives and their work, etc. Those relationships have led to some pretty amazing opportunities over the years.

When I got started on Twitter and Facebook, this became much easier. I would find interesting people and friend request them or start following them on Twitter. I can remember a conversation I had with someone who asked me why I was following people I didn’t know. My answer was simply, “because I want to know them.” Maybe they had a job that was in an industry I want to penetrate. Perhaps they have friends that I’d like to eventually know. Or maybe they’re extremely accomplished people I admire.

I’m sure this sounds opportunistic and it certainly is. That’s the point. I don’t look at my career and think about tomorrow. I look at my career and think about ten years from now. Twenty years. Forty years. And then I look at the trends and various businesses that I want to get involved with and map a route to actually getting into those areas. That involves social engineering.

Obviously, relationships are a big part of creating opportunities. We’ve all heard the old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” And that’s true…at least to a certain extent.

People often ask why I have the word “ninja” on my website and my personal brand. Is it because I like to think of myself as some dude swathed in black with a sword strapped across my back? Hardly. I use that term to help market myself, knowing the allure the word has, as well as for the very reasons I’ve outlined here: I take the lessons from the old and apply them to the modern world to create my future success.

You can do the same.

Every day, I make a conscious habit of reaching out to someone new that I don’t know. I do some basic research on them – a quick glance through Google is usually enough – and then reach out. Sometimes, the friendship is rejected, but often it is not. And then the process starts. A key aspect is the fact that these are not one-sided relationships; you have be willing to give of yourself as well to really make them work. It might takes years to see something beneficial, and some relationships never bear any tangible fruit at all – although I would argue that interacting with others is its own reward and keeps us all mindful of the larger global community.

Social engineering is just one example of how you can create your opportunities. There are many other ways. I’ve often said that writers need to study the business they’re in and then study any other business tangential to writing. Then look beyond that. Get out of your comfort zone and explore things. You might start to see opportunities long before other people do. A lot of companies try things out in beta and if you’ve got your eyes open, you’ll see a chance to get involved before anyone else. That helps put you in a unique position and can be good for generating buzz, putting you in touch with other people who might prove beneficial, and even selling your products. My good friend Joe Nassise got involved with a new company called unglue.it and they launch today at noon – it’s crowdsourcing to keep one of his novels forever free if they crowdsource enough money. Joe’s one of the first four authors to take part in this and it’s a great opportunity for him. (You can get involved in it by going here.)

The point is, you have the ability to create your opportunities every single day – even when in the midst of the most dire circumstances. Make my habit yours and reach out everyday to someone new; read something you didn’t know about before; watch a show or attend an event you have no current interest in. When you continually open doors, the odds start improving that you’ll eventually find some amazing pathways to explore.

Be like Gregor the Oligarch from the DirectTV commercials. Say it with me in your best Russian accent: “Opportunities…I creates them.” :)

PS: TONIGHT at 6pm EST is my amazing virtual author event with Shindig. I’ll be talking to fans, answering questions AND showing an exclusive NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN clip from THE FIXER TV series. It’s FREE but you must RSVP NOW by clicking here.

A Writer’s Best Defense

There’s an inherent problem with being an aspiring writer: you’re not all that sure of yourself yet. You have this “Go get ‘em” attitude and you want your stories to be read by the public and you hope way down deep inside for that validation that comes with publishing and seeing your name in print. Every writer remembers what it’s like to finish a story you know is good, but then to have niggling doubts nibble at the fringes of your consciousness. “Maybe it’s not THAT good.” That’s when you seek out the approval of others. Sometimes, it’s family. But most times, writers put their faith in the expertise of an editor – be it a book editor or a story editor. If you submit that story enough, you just might get the validation you seek through a contract to publish it. And it feels good.

It feels REALLY good.

The first time I sold a short story was way back in 1996 to Rictus Magazine. It was for my story “I, the Courier,” and it earned me a whopping $5 bucks. It could have been a million. Or it could have been a penny. It wouldn’t have mattered; what counted was that someone had finally read something I wrote and judged it worthy enough of being published. It was a high I’ll never forget. And the Peking Duck my wife and I had that night at our favorite Chinese restaurant was one helluva meal. I never cashed that check, either. I framed it and it hangs on the wall in my office.

So, much like baby turtles squirming through the sands on their way into the ocean for the first time, aspiring writers are somewhat clumsy, mostly insecure, and vulnerable to the sharks cruising just beyond the beach anxiously awaiting an easy meal. Except the predators awaiting aspiring writers aren’t really sharks at all – that would be an insult to sharks – they’re scumbags and sleazeballs and pretty much every other degrading insult you could come up with. Mostly, they’re insecure wanna-be writers themselves who couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag, so they open up fly-by-night sham operations and publish themselves. Maybe they make a little money. They get a taste of power. Perhaps they decide to publish an anthology and put out submission guidelines, and then they sit back and wait for aspiring writers to send them stories. Having been rejected themselves, they enjoy the power they have over those aspiring writers. That’s when the nightmares start for the aspiring writers. Maybe they get scammed out of money. Maybe they get treated like dirt. Or maybe, just maybe, they get their story “edited” but it’s not really an edit – it’s a completely different story.

Such was the case with Mandy DeGeit and her story, which was accepted into an anthology by some pathetic schmoe named Anthony Giangregorio. In short, Giangregorio runs an outfit called Undead Press, which was previously Open Casket press, and at least one other name, which is never a good sign. In Mandy’s case, Giangregorio (who is himself also a writer – although probably only in the least complimentary terms possible, as in “learning my letters” given his various responses online) changed whole parts of Mandy’s story without telling her about it and when she cried foul, he proceeded to dump all over her and strut about in full peacock douchebaggery mode. Mandy’s account is well worth reading although I won’t even dream of linking to Giangregorio’s effluence here.

Suffice it to say, I think this guy is utter scum. But therein lies the problem: people like this fermented dung stain exist, and they’re all too eager to take advantage of the desire of aspiring writers to be validated and vindicated for their efforts. It’s tragic, but it’s also part of the world that exists in writing & publishing. So how do you protect yourself?

1. Google: it’s quick and it’s easy. And if you’re going to do business with someone, Google them. Then don’t just quickly scan the first page of results, but get deeper in. This is your hard work we’re talking about. Treat it like it’s got some worth. Go at least ten pages into search results and learn about your potential business partner.

2. The obvious: look at the website of the publisher you’re going to deal with. A quick glance at the Undead Press website shows it’s a mess of cover art that would be better if it had been done by a blind, rabbit ferret with a crystal meth addiction. That alone should be enough to make you steer clear: who wants horrible cover art on their work? If the publisher was making a serious, honest attempt, they’d be willing to invest in superior packaging for their books. It’s that simple.

3. Terms: contributor copies – uh uh. No way. Sorry, I know there are a lot of good people out there trying to be publishers (I tried myself at one point and failed miserably) but if all you can offer is contributor copies then no dice. At least offer twenty bucks – give the author you’re publishing enough to pick up a pizza for the family and celebrate their accomplishment, for crying out loud. Twenty bucks against royalties isn’t that much of a stretch and if you can’t afford to do even that, then you shouldn’t be in business in the first place.

4. Communication: if you communicate with an editor and the editor’s email is chock full of typos like “alot” and “its” when they mean “it’s,” then I’d run. They may not be writers, but they still need to be able to use the English language.

5. Study the business! I can’t say this enough. If you are a writer, it is NOT enough to simply write. It’s not. Those days of being groomed for superstardom by some wizened editor in NYC are gone. Seriously. Stop living in that fantasy world because it simply does not exist anymore. These days, you need to know what is happening in the business itself and then all the other businesses that are tangential to it. How are people making money with content? As writers, we are part of an industry that generates trillions of dollars in revenue. Seriously. The film/TV industry could not exist without writers. Neither could the video game industry. Nor could a host of other industries that rely on content and writers to generate story ideas, news reports, etc. Treat your work with the respect it deserves – and if you hone your craft enough, then your writing will have value to it.

While validation feels great – it is not worth the anguish you’ll feel after being screwed over by someone like a Giangregorio. So do your homework. And only do business with people who are reputable and show some measure of business savvy.

Break Out Your Video Camera…

Because I’m going to give away TWO brand new Kindle Touch 3Gs at the end of May 2012.

Want one? Here’s the deal: May 2012 is the 10th Anniversary of Lawson’s debut in print (THE FIXER – book 1 in the series came out in May 2002) and I’m looking for the coolest, most creatively awesome videos – made by my fans – to help spread the word about the entire Lawson universe – the books, the TV series, and much more. if I pick your video as one of the two best, you’ll win a brand new Kindle Touch 3G. It’s that simple.

A couple of rules, though:

1. Videos must be under 3 minutes – preferably about two minutes so you don’t bore your viewers.
2. Videos must contain images from anything related to Lawson – book covers, screen grabs from The Fixer, etc. Anything related to Lawson and The Fixer is available for use.
3. Videos may NOT contain any copyrighted images, video, or music. In other words, don’t set your video to a Barry Manilow tune unless you happen to own the rights to use that song.
4. Videos must have a general theme along the lines of “Why I Love the Lawson Vampire Series by Jon F. Merz” It doesn’t have to be exactly like this; you could say something like “I’m rabid for Lawson” or something like that.
5. Videos must be uploaded to both Youtube and to my Facebook Fan Page in order to qualify. For Youtube videos, please be sure to use keywords like “lawson vampire, the fixer, jon f. merz, ebooks, lawson vampire ebooks” etc. etc.
6. By entering this contest you are granting me permission to use your video in any way that I see fit, for as long as I like, wherever I like, without any sort of compensation or payment. Ownership will remain yours, but I’m free to use it as much as I like. (see fine print below)
7. Contest is open to anyone, anywhere. There is no fee to enter; the only requirement is a love of Lawson and his many ebooks.
8. Entries MUST be work-safe, which means no foul language, obscene material, etc.

That’s basically it. So get out there and be creative. Start a Lawson flash mob in a crowded subway station. Interview yourself talking about why Lawson is so awesome. Create a computer animation with the book covers and screenshots. Tell the world why Lawson is so awesome and why everyone should be reading the series and getting ready for the TV show. Include links to the books on Amazon (http://amzn.to/lawsonbks) and/or the Nook (http://bit.ly/lawsonv) if you like. Put a link to the Facebook fan Page if you want (http://on.fb.me/jfmfans) or come up with other ingenious ways to promote Lawson and his many adventures.

I have no idea how many people will enter this contest, so the odds might be pretty good. Videos don’t have to be shot in HD or anything like that. Hell, you could cut it together with video clips shot by a smart phone – just make sure it rocks and helps promote Lawson and his adventures. Final decisions on the winning entries will be made by me and me alone. Winners will be announced no later than June 6th, 2012 and they will receive their new Kindles within a few weeks of the announcement.

And if you haven’t read my Lawson series yet, then go get some of the books and discover the exciting mayhem that awaits! Kindle users go here! | Nook users go here! | iBooks users go here!

Excited? Then get to work! All entries MUST be received by May 16th, 2012. That’s three weeks from now. You are free to enter as many videos as you wish, but make sure they rock. I’d rather have one kick-ass entry than five mediocre ones.

Lawson’s 10th Year Anniversary – May 2012…and you just might win a brand new Kindle!

FINE PRINT:

Copyright
All Entries submitted to the Contest must be original. You must be the sole owner of any copyright and all other intellectual property rights in and to any Entry submitted. Your submission of each Entry is your acknowledgement, warranty and guarantee that you are the author, creator and/ or sole owner of copyright(s) and other intellectual property rights in and to the Entry submitted. By submitting an Entry, you also represent and warrant that the Entries that you submit do not infringe on the copyright, right of publicity, privacy rights or any other intellectual property or other right of any other persons or entity, that you have secured any and all waivers and permissions necessary with respect to persons and subject matter in the Entry and that you have not submitted the Entry to any other contest. If the ownership of any Entry is contested in any manner, the Sponsor may disqualify that Entry. By submitting an Entry you agree to hold harmless and indemnify Jon F. Merz for any breach of these Official Rules and/or your representations and warranties made hereunder.

Rights of Use
You shall retain the copyright to any Entry and all other rights thereto EXCEPT: by entering the Contest, you agree to have your submitted Entry displayed by Sponsor on Sponsor’s website without any fee or other form of compensation. In addition, you hereby grant an unlimited royalty free license to the Sponsor to copy, display, perform, store, broadcast, distribute or otherwise use your Entry for any purpose. You agree that the Sponsor will not be liable to you or to any third party for any use, editing, adaptation, modification and/or publication of any Entry.

Publicity and Advertising
Except where prohibited, participation in the Contest constitutes irrevocable consent to the Sponsor and their agents to use, record reproduce, publish, display, perform, translate, and distribute, the names, likeness, voices, quotations, opinions and biographical information of Entrant, including, without limitation, any photograph or recording for promotional purposes in any media, worldwide, without further payment or consideration; and the name, likeness, voice and biographical information of any natural person appearing in the Entry, including without limitation any photograph or recording, for any promotional purpose in any media, worldwide, and/or for any other commercial or non-commercial corporate purpose, including without limitation use on merchandise or for marketing, without attribution or further payment or compensation to the Entrant, his or her successors or assigns or any other entity.

EBook Dominance

The great folks at Pew Research have just released an amazing report detailing the rise of ebook dominance in the way people consume content. The report is incredibly detailed and chock full of very useful data. Among the key points raised in the report are the following:

1. 4x as many people are reading ebooks as were two years ago.
2. People who read ebooks are reading MORE (24 ebooks read versus 15 for non ebook readers on average)
3. People who read ebooks prefer to BUY rather than borrow.

The report also has a number of fascinating survey questions that clearly show that ebooks are going to dominate the landscape very soon. Including a nice bar graph that asked which type of book (ebook or printed) is better for the following purposes:

1. Reading with a child: 81% prefer printed versus 9% prefer ebooks
2. Sharing books with others: 69% – printed / 25% – ebook
3. Reading books in bed: 43% – printed / 45% – ebooks
4. Having a wide selection to choose from: 35% – printed / 53% – ebooks
5. Reading while traveling or commuting: 19% – printed / 73% – ebooks
6. Being able to get a book quickly: 13% – printed / 83% – ebooks

So aside from the first two questions, ebooks are the preferred method. And I expect that as lending ebooks becomes easier and publishers realize the silliness of DRM, that question will also see a swing toward digital over print. As newer tablets come on the market, making illustrating ebooks easier than ever, you can bet the percentages for question one will also swap.

There’s a whole host of data in the report, which you can download as a .pdf file by clicking above or right here. For anyone who writes or publishes, the report is mandatory reading. And it’s well worth taking the time to do so. Please share this post with others you feel would enjoy reading about this great new report! Thanks!

Facebook Page Timeline Tips for Authors – Part 2

About a month ago, I wrote up a blog post detailing how all pages on Facebook would be converted to the new Timeline design come March 30th. Along with this, I presented some tips on how to maximize an effective use of Timeline for authors, and closed by promising another post with more tips in the next week.

Well, a month has passed, but I finally got back around to it. :)

If you haven’t read the first post, go back and read it since it gives you a foundation for what I detail in this post.

1. Okay, now I told that FBML was going away as of June and it was a good idea to convert over to Static HTML: iFrames Tab app now. I also told you that Static HTML: iFrames Tab didn’t inherit the styling of fonts that the old FBML tab did. In other words, if you’ve been experimenting with the design, your fonts probably do not match the rest of your Facebook page. If you go to your page and open that tab, you’ll see whatever coding you put there. In order to inherit the styling from the rest of your page and make it look all good and “Facebooky,” add these lines to the very top of your code:

<link type=”text/css” rel=”stylesheet” href=”https://s-static.ak.facebook.com/rsrc.php/v1/yk/r/SLcv9Fpf1fC.css” />
<link type=”text/css” rel=”stylesheet” href=”https://s-static.ak.facebook.com/rsrc.php/v1/yi/r/AZwrJ64-1qg.css” />
<link type=”text/css” rel=”stylesheet” href=”https://s-static.ak.facebook.com/rsrc.php/v1/y5/r/4kE31h2Sb_T.css” />
<link type=”text/css” rel=”stylesheet” href=”https://s-static.ak.facebook.com/rsrc.php/v1/yR/r/QEku2z8Q32R.css” />

This links your tab to the CSS style sheets that set the rest of Facebook. There’s probably only one of these applicable to your page, but I couldn’t figure out which one it was, so I included them all. There’s no harm in having them all there, so no worries. Once you insert those lines, your tab should look exactly like the rest of your page.

2. Tabs: Using the new Timeline feature gives you a bit more flexibility when it comes to tabs, which are positioned directly under your cover photo. You can also design unique graphics for your tabs that look better than having random graphic images up there. Four tabs are displayed immediately when your page loads and you can have up to four more under those that users need to click the down arrow to see.

Designing your tabs is easy. The dimensions are 111 pixels wide by 74 pixels high. Open your graphic program of choice and design a nice eye-catching graphic to use as each tab. If you look at the screenshot below of my tabs, you’ll see that my Welcome! Tab has a bright red picture of a movie ticket that says “free admission” on it.

I used this because it’s bold and gives a clear message. Highly-detailed graphics are not going to work here, so be simple and bold.

Once you’ve settled on the design, you’ll need to upload it and make it active on your page. Go to the top of your Admin Panel, and click on “Manage.” Then click “edit page.” A new screen will come up. On the left side, look down and see “Apps,” and then click on that. A list of your Apps will now show up on the screen. Since my Welcome! tab was created using Static HTML: iFrame Tabs, that’s where I need to go. Click on “edit settings.” A small pop-up will show on your screen that looks like this:

Most importantly, make sure it says “Tab: Added” so you’re sure it’s displaying on the Page itself. Next see where it says at the bottom “custom tab name.” Put whatever you want in that space and then click “save.” I recommend something nice and friendly like “Welcome!” But you could have it say anything like “My Books” or what have you.

Then you’ll want to click above that where it says “custom tab image.” This is where you will upload your custom 111×74 image. So click on that and a new window/tab opens. Follow the instructions and you should then see your new image upload and display. When you’re finished, make sure you go back to your page and see that it’s displaying properly. Up until a few weeks ago, there was a bug in the system that caused everyone else who had uploaded a custom image to display on your page instead of what you uploaded. It was annoying but Facebook seems to have fixed the problem.

3. Tab Placement: Did you know you can move your tabs around to some extent? You can. Look at the screenshot above of my cover photo and tabs again. On the right side where my tabs are located, you’ll see a 2 with a down arrow next to it. This means there are two other tabs below the top four and users can click those to access more info, pages, etc. If you click that, you will see all the tabs displayed.

And now if you hover over each tab in the upper right hand corner, you’ll see a pencil. Click on that pencil and the first thing you’ll see is “swap position with” followed by a few choices. So if you’re not happy with where your welcome tab is, you can move it to a better position. Just be advised that Facebook wants your Photos first and foremost on your Tab menu. Presumably because Photos are one of Facebook’s most active features. Remember that: be sure you have a bunch of photos uploaded to your page. I take screenshots of my works-in-progress (usually a good juicy page that users can read and get excited about) and post those from time-to-time.

Be sure to put your most important information Tabs up top and leave the lesser important stuff below. My top tabs are Photos, Welcome!, Likes, and Top Fans (see below), while my lesser important (but still fun) tabs are Events and Videos.

4. Top Fans: if you’re an author you’ve got to be interacting with your fans. There’s no other way. And if you want to really get your fans excited and active, then the Top Fans app is truly spectacular. I’ve been using this for a few weeks now when I saw it on my friend Chris Penn’s page and the results have been great. Top Fans integrates seamlessly with your Facebook Page once you sign up. They have a professional version for $29 bucks per month that gives you a lot more options. For me, I stick to the FREE version right now and I’m still blown away by it.

Basically, the app tracks fan participation on your page. Fans acquire points by liking, commenting, sharing and posting on your page. A running leader board of the top 25 fans provides a wonderful graphic interface that spurs people to take action. I took it a step further and announced that each month’s winner will receive a special T-shirt only available to Top Fans. I had the logo below designed that I’ll be using for the shirts.

It rewards fans for being active, increases your visibility elsewhere on Facebook, and leads to more fans, and more readers. In return, the T-shirt is cool and helps spread the word even more. Seriously, get Top Fans installed on your page today and watch how people respond. It’s fantastic. And I made sure to move the Top Fans tab to a prominent position on my page so people can see it immediately.

In closing, make sure that if you have a custom tab, that you really use it to maximum effect. My Welcome! Tab has a quick message from me, a picture, and newsletter sign-up form, and links to buy my ebooks at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Critical stuff all laid out on one tab.

One final tidbit, while you no longer have the ability to make a special landing page to direct people to on your Page, each Tab has its own unique URL. And that means instead of just directing people to the page itself, you can direct them right to your special Tab. Use a URL shortening service to create custom URLs for your Tabs and it will be easier to track and share.

I hope you’ve found this useful. If so, please come by My Facebook Page and click the ol’ LIKE button, will ya? :) And be sure to share this article with any of your author pals. Trust me, there aren’t nearly enough writers making the most of their Facebook pages. :(

Thanks for reading!

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.

Facebook Page Timeline Tips for Authors

So, as of March 30th, every page on Facebook will be rolled over to the new Timeline format currently being used on personal profiles. It’s no use complaining; Facebook has mandated the switchover. While all pages will switch over on the 30th, you can actually get started now on designing it and using the Timeline feature for your page. But for authors, here are some critical tips to make the most of the new format.

1. Choose a great cover photograph. The measurement for the new page cover photo is 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall. But be advised: your cover photo must NOT have any of the following:

i. price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it on socialmusic.com”;
ii. contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page’s “About” section;
iii. references to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or
iv. calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”

Any of that stuff is expressly forbidden by Facebook.

That said, your cover photo can really make a great impression. It should be sharp, illustrate who you are as an author (and more if you happen to have a good platform) and include a nice eye-catching graphic. Here’s the cover photo I had my graphic design guru do up for my page:

Since my platform is “writer, producer, ninja” it was important to me that I convey each of those items through a visual cue. So, you have a screenshot of The Fixer website, me doing some ninjutsu, and then book covers for my various recent works. My logo is front and center and my name is prominently displayed. I think it works very well and comments have been great. Having the cover photo with Timeline gives you far more real estate to make an impression than the old page layout, so be sure to use it to get people excited about your writing! The overall design also ties in with my website design – brand continuity is very important!

Finally, your cover image is also clickable, so be sure to put up a description there that helps sell yourself and your work. My cover photo description reads: “Find out more about my books here http://amzn.to/lawsonbks (for Kindle users) and http://bitr.ly/lawsonv (for Nook users) and be sure to visit me at http:///www.jonfmerz.net & on Twitter @jonfmerz” It’s one more opportunity to engage new and old fans alike so don’t forget to use it!

2. There’s no longer a tab you can set as your default landing page, so anyone coming to your page will see the Timeline feature. Make sure if you’ve got posts or comments in your timeline that you don’t like that you delete them and clean things up.

3. FBML is going away in June. For a while now, FBML (Facebook Mark-Up Language) was a simple application you could add to your page and create a sort-of custom website on it, using HTML etc. Well, Facebook has decided that FBML is obsolete and they’re switching everything over to iFrames now. What that means is if you have any custom tabs (say, “Subscribe to My Newsletter” or something like that) they will stop working in June. So the best thing to do now is to replicate those same tabs using iFrames. How do you do that? Pretty easily, actually: grab the Static HTML iFrames Tab Application and add it to your page. Now you can take whatever HTML coding you had on your FBML tab and move it over to the iFrames tab. After previewing the new iFrames tab and making sure it works like it should, you can delete the old FBML tab.

One thing, FBML used the same CSS style sheets that Facebook uses and inherited all those font qualities, etc. The new iFrames tab does not, so your stuff is going to look different until you set the font size and face to the same as your other pages. You can set the CSS style directly on the iFrame app tab when you insert the rest of the old FBML code. iFrames actually gives you a LOT more creative control over what you want the tab to do, so take some time to learn how to maximize it. I’m not going to run through how to do that here, but it’s something you’ll want to explore to get the most functionality out of your new page design. (I’m still in the process of redesigning my page anyway, so it would be premature of me to offer up advice when I’m still figuring it all out!)

4. Hello Data! One of the coolest new features when you implement the Timeline design on your page is the incredible amount of information Facebook gives to page administrators about who is viewing your page, liking it, post popularity, etc. This is fantastic because it lets you see immediately how much your posts and engagement with readers is registering. Say you write a post about your recent book coming out for sale: with the new data feedback, you can see how popular it actually was. It takes a certain degree of guesswork out of trying to quantify your reader engagement. The results are right in front of you. It might be slightly disconcerting to learn that your throwaway joke about Snooki and the Mayan calendar had more viral impact than talking up your latest thriller, but it’s also good to know how your demographic responds to you.

Here’s a screenshot of my admin panel that displays on top of my cover photo (you have the option to hide this – see the upper right button there?) Check out the small square that says “insights.” If you click on “see all” you’ll be whisked away to a page with incredible detail. But here’s the cool thing about even that small screenshot: I’ve been sick lately two times. Guess where those two dips in my engagement data fell? Exactly when I was feeling like crap and didn’t post very much or otherwise engage. As a result, my reach dipped, people weren’t talking about me, and the page just sort of died in terms of excitement.

Why is this data so important? Because as much as you might like to lock yourself away and live out that “writer hermit” fantasy, the truth is you’re in business. You sell ebooks, or books, or both. And as such, you need to know what your audience is doing, how they’re responding, and how to engage them – that is, if you have any hope of making a long-term career out of this stuff. So Facebook has graciously given you oodles of information to help you improve your business. Seriously. Some of you will no doubt roll your eyes and employ that old excuse, “I don’t have TIME to look at all of this stuff, I’m a writer.” Great. Well, if that’s your excuse, then so be it. Some other writer will quickly grasp how this data can give them a leg up on you and then proceed to decimate you in sales. This kind of intelligence is gold, people. Use it or lose it.

I’ll have another post next week discussing more ways to make your page better. But for now, get out there and start creating some kick-ass designs!

And by the way, if you find this post useful, come swing by my Fan Page and say hello!