Why It’s Important to Subscribe to My Newsletter

My newsletter is one of the most important things I have as an author. It lets me keep all my readers informed of my new work, writing, happenings, and all sorts of assorted goodness. There’s free fiction and more in each issue and I try to make it a bit more interesting with each installment. 2013 will see some cool changes as well with more added content every month. I always recommend that people subscribe and stay subscribed and this morning presented a perfect reason why.

Starting in January, Instagram says it now has the right to sell your photographs. Go read the article and nuke your Instagram account and then come back and we’ll continue.

Back? Okay, so Instagram is owned by Facebook. They bought Instagram for billions of dollars and now they have a very popular photography site that they are planning on turning into a serious revenue stream for themselves. I don’t use Instagram (I think I did once, but I nuked my account this morning just to be sure) but I do use Facebook. A LOT. I post tons of things out there to both my personal profile and my fan page. And my thinking is that if Facebook enacts a stupid policy change like they just did with Instagram, then what’s to stop them from doing the same at Facebook itself? While they’ve repeatedly said they won’t charge anyone to use Facebook, will they attempt to sell things that people post as a revenue maker? It’s possible. is it likely? I don’t know.

But I do know that if they ever did, my Facebook presence would disappear in a second. And that’s why I’m urging you all to subscribe to my free newsletter now so we have a redundant system of communication between us. Yes, you can find me on Facebook and stay up-to-date, but what if Facebook goes down or I stop posting there? By being a member of the coolest newsletter subscriber base on the planet (if I do say so rather immodestly) you’ll be sure that you always get the latest and greatest from me.

A new issue is dropping in a few days, so don’t wait. Subscribe right now by plopping your email address into the little box below. It’s quick, easy, and totally free. I will never sell your information to anyone. Ever. Period.


Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Writers

Over the last seven/eight days, I wrote just shy of 70,000 words. The schedule and word count per day broke down like this:

  • Monday: 10,000
  • Tuesday: 12,500
  • Wednesday: 12,500
  • Thursday: 7500
  • Friday: 7500
  • Saturday: 5000
  • Sunday: 5000
  • Monday: 8500

For me, this was a good haul. I’m in first draft mode, which (as some of you may remember) is what I affectionately call my “puke it out” phase. This is where I don’t give a crap about the quality of what I write; I just want the basic storyline down so I can then go back and rewrite, edit, tweak, ad infinitum until I’m satisfied with the quality of it. My method for writing during this phase looks pretty much like this:

  • Each chapter is roughly 2,000-2,500 words.
  • It takes me approximately one hour to write each chapter (sometimes less, sometimes more)
  • After each chapter, I take a nice break (Facebook, exercise, talk to friends, whatever)
  • Repeat

Depending on my pace and how fast the ideas are rolling, it’s possible that I will top out around 16,000 words each day – which is my personal best. More often, my comfortable daily range is 10,000-12,500 thereabouts. That’s comparable to the time a lot of people spend working each day in an office. By and large, this daily rate is unsustainable for much more than a week. And if I wrote like that each day, every day, I’d burn out in no time. But when everything is firing on all cylinders, yes, this is the rate I can churn out words at.

And you know what? Big deal.

Seriously. Big fucking deal.

Should you be impressed? I don’t know. I don’t much care. I don’t post word counts to brag or gloat. I post them because it’s a good day’s work FOR ME and I’m satisfied with what I accomplished. And therein lies the rub: as you progress as a writer, you will inevitably find a system that works for you. I discovered mine writing eleven installments of the Rogue Angel series for Harlequin’s Gold Eagle imprint. I had seriously short deadlines and as a result, found that I work very well doing first drafts in very little time. It’s intense and requires a lot of Twix candy bars and Pepsi, but it works for me quite well. So that’s how I write first drafts these days.

Last night I posted about sending off the first book in the Shadow Warrior series to my editor at Baen Books (while I’d been working on the first draft of this new novel, I’d also been editing Shadow Warrior.) and combined with the fact that I finished the first draft, I was enjoying basking in the afterglow of a job well done. A friend of mine reposted about me writing 70k words in 7 days on her status and that then opened up the floodgates of nonsense:

So here you’ve got a whole group of supposedly professional writers taking issue with what I’ve accomplished. Sarah Pinborough wins the award for “So Obvious, It’s Too Stupid To Post It But I Will Anyway” comment. Suw Charman-Anderson thinks that it takes some insane amount of pre-planning before anyone is capable of doing what I did. (In reality I worked from 3-page synopsis). Vincent Holland-Keen arrives on-scene to gladhand himself about how awesome he is for not writing as fast. Later on this same tosser brings up my character Jake Thunder (obviously without seeing the bit about Jake’s Native American past) and then claims he’s not judging, when in reality, he’s doing exactly that – equating hardboiled PI genre work as being lowbrow. Steve Mosby offers up his assessment that all I really did was “type” and later on agrees that my level of output is “misleading” because I might have spent months planning it out. Keith Walters offers up his assertion that he feels his quality is better when he writes 1500 words as opposed to anything more. Tom Wood trots out the belief that by me working so hard, I must have no time for anything else – he should probably take a gander at my biography and then spend a day with me doing everything I do (on second thought, he’d probably tap out before we even got to breakfast) prior to imagining me as some recluse without a life.

THANKFULLY, James Oswald shows up with a bit of reason.

The rest of that is pretty pathetic – a bunch of supposedly professional writers calling my work into question because they compared themselves to what I do. Had I posted a status update along these lines: “Yeah, just cranked 70,000 words in one week. What’s up other bitch writers? You guys suck for not being able to match my pace. Slackers. Doesn’t anyone have the power to go toe-to-toe with me?” then their little bitchfest would have been understandable.

But I don’t do that. I don’t compare myself to other writers. As far as I’m concerned, the only person I’m competing against is myself. Did I write this book better than the last? Did it take me longer to do so? Will this one sell better than the last book I wrote? Can I tell the story even better the next time? That’s what matters. Not what some other writer is doing. I don’t care what other writers do in the course of their work. If they’re bringing out one book a year – good for them. If they manage ten books a year – good for them. All I care about is what I do.

And all you should care about is what YOU do. When you write, there’s no one else involved. So why should it matter how other writers do their work?

It shouldn’t.

But writers tend, by and large, to have massive insecurities and massive egos. They like to think their way is the best and everyone else sucks anyway. This is why writers invent awards that no one has ever heard of, let alone cares about. This is why you get little bitchfests like the above. A lot of writers cut down other writers – and especially aspiring writers – because it makes them feel better about their place in the mud puddle. But none of that matters.

Time was, there used to be only so many books published each year, only so many editors, only so many contracts. Competition was tough. Nowadays, anyone can write and publish. Unfortunately, that makes the old “pros” mad. It upsets them that people didn’t have to slog it out in the trenches and accumulate tons of rejections. To most of these veteran writers, the new upstarts represent a direct threat to their livelihood.

That’s ridiculous, short-sighted, and frankly, stupid. But there you go.

When you make the decision to write, do it for yourself. Find your own path. Find what works for you. Don’t waste your time henpecking the techniques of other writers; they ain’t you. I can’t stand outlining, but I know writers who swear by it and it works for them. Awesome. I know writers who can churn out double the words I just did and do so consistently. Awesome. I know writers who can only manage 1,000 words each week. Awesome.

At the end of the day, what you accomplish is up to you – it’s not up to the whims of someone else. If you want to get something done, do it. Whining about quality or quantity or any of the other idiocy exhibited in the screencap above is wasted time.

Listen to your gut and do what works for you.

2012/2013 Publication Schedule (partial)

By Jon F. Merz

Since we’re heading into the end of the year, I thought I’d draw up a list of coming attractions of SOME of the stuff I’ll be publishing soon. So here ya go!

DECEMBER 2012

  • Zombie Ryu Episode 3
  • Untitled Lawson Christmas Story

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2013

  • THE CRUCIBLE: A Lawson Vampire Novel
  • Zombie Ryu Episode 4

MARCH 2013

  • Zombie Ryu Episode 5

APRIL 2013

  • Zombie Ryu Episode 6

MAY 2013

  • THE NINJA APPRENTICE: The Tsuba of Kotogawa (book 2)
  • Zombie Ryu Episode 7

JUNE/JULY 2013

  • Lawson Novella
  • Zombie Ryu Episode 8

AUGUST 2013

  • Zombie Ryu Episode 9

SEPTEMBER 2013

  • Zombie Ryu Episode 10

OCTOBER 2013

  • Zombie Ryu Episode 11

NOVEMBER 2013

  • Zombie Ryu Episode 12 (season finale)

ALSO IN FALL 2013

SHADOW WARRIOR: Undead Hordes of Kan-Gul (this is book 1 in my new fantasy series from Baen Books)

There’s more than this, but this is enough to make my head explode (in a good way!) I hope you’re as excited as I am! And by the way, my awesome offer still stands for those of you who want to give my ebooks as gifts this holiday season. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of it since you get something as well. And please share this with your friends and family. There’s nothing like the gift of some adrenalized mayhem courtesy of your crazy author pal to make the holidays into a thing of beauty!

Black Friday & Cyber Monday: A Special Offer from Author Jon F. Merz

By Jon F. Merz

This week is, of course, Thanksgiving. On that day, millions upon millions of Americans will devour many, many turkeys and enjoy a tryptophan-induced coma while watching football and spending time with family and relatives. In recent years, this formerly luxuriously-relaxing day has been invaded by the retail giants as they try to get you to leave the comfort of home and family in order to head out at night in the freezing cold to spend your money in their stores. In order to do this, they have lured you with promises of amazing deals. Many of you have done this and will do so again this year as you search for gifts for family and friends.

But there’s another way to enjoy Black Friday & Cyber Monday without leaving home: you can do it from the comfort of your laptop or wireless device.

And you do it by gifting ebooks.

You may not have known that you could gift ebooks. Many people don’t. But on each of the three major platforms that I sell on, the option to gift any of my ebooks is there.

Here’s where the gift option is on Amazon.com – and here is a link to all of my ebooks on Amazon.

Now, here’s the gift option on Barnes & Noble, which they make pretty small and hard-to-find. And here is a link to all of my ebooks on Barnes & Noble.com

Finally, here’s the gift option over on Kobo – very easy-to-see. And here’s a list of all of my ebooks on Kobo.

Now at this point, you’re probably wondering, “Well big deal – I don’t see any specials or discounts or stuff that would normally make me forego sleep in order to drive in the wee hours of the frigid morning the day of or after a major holiday. What gives, Merz?”

Here’s the deal: gift at least three of MY ebooks on Black Friday or Cyber Monday this year, send me the receipt at jonfmerz AT gmail DOT com, and I will do a couple of things, depending on the amount of the gift.

  1. Gifts of at least $10 will receive a personalized post card from me to both the recipient and the gift giver. For the recipient, I’ll put a nice “welcome to my fiction world” message, customized for them. The gift giver also gets a nice thank you post card from me.
  2. Gifts of at least $20 will get the above added extra, along with a select cover flat from one of the first four Lawson Vampire novels for both the recipient and gift giver.
  3. Gifts of at least $50 will get the post card AND a signed copy of THE KENSEI – again for both the recipient and gift giver.
  4. Gifts of at least $100 will get the BIG GIFT OF MERZ: a special personalized letter from me to both the recipient and gift giver, a signed copy of THE KENSEI, a box of author copies from my Rogue Angel writing years, cover flats, and Advanced Reader Copies of the NEW Shadow Warrior series coming in 2013 from Baen Books. (NOTE: the ARCs will ship when I get them, since I won’t receive them for a while yet).

Remember: not only is it TOTALLY cool to gift my ebooks, but in doing so, you – the gift giver – also gets a nice something special. This is a win-win and you don’t even have to deal with the insane crowds, mace incidents (remember last year), and early alarm clocks on a day when you should be sleeping.

In fact, I’ll go ONE STEP BEYOND all reason and sanity: I’m opening this up to anyone who gifts my ebooks between NOW and December 18th. Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday – you can SHOP NOW and get it done!

With more people getting e-readers for gifts this year, the gift of ebooks to read on those e-readers makes incredible sense. And since I’m an indie, you can get MY ebooks for cheaper than those traditional BIG CONGLOMERATE publishers who price-gouge you like there’s no tomorrow. Your ten dollars goes a lot further with me than it does in a store and you get HOURS upon HOURS of entertainment. Ebooks are the perfect gift for anyone – if they at least have a smart phone, they can read ebooks!

So here are the links again to my ebooks on Amazon (KINDLE), Barnes & Noble.com (NOOK), and KOBO (other e-readers and computers). One final note: this offer is open to anyone from around the world! Send me your gift receipt to JONFMERZ at GMAIL dot COM once you’ve gifted the ebooks and I’ll get right to work creating your perfect present. (Please note: I’m unable to ensure that my part of your gift will reach them at the same time the ebooks do, but it will still rock their world to get a personalized gift from an actual author!)

One final thing: if you feel like doing so, please SHARE this post with your friends who might not know about “gifting” ebooks. I’d also appreciate Facebook LIKES, retweets on Twitter, and re-pins on Pinterest. Thank you!

Have fun & Happy Holidays!

8 Awesome Novels for Halloween!

By Jon F. Merz

Imagine being able to get EIGHT amazing novels that are all just perfect for the Halloween season and pay what you want to own them. That’s the idea behind Storybundle.com and I’m very proud to be a part of their current offering. My novel VICARIOUS along with great reads from bestselling authors like Douglas Clegg, Kevin J. Anderson, Joe Nassise, Patricia Fulton, and Annie Walls are all available for any e-reader or computer right now just by clicking here!

You get to choose how much of what you pay goes to the authors and how much goes to Storybundle.com (typically, the split is 70/30) and you can even choose to allot a certain percentage to some very fine charity groups!

Storybundle is a fantastic way to support indie authors and feel great about participating at the same time. So I encourage you all to go to Storybundle.com and purchase this exciting Halloween bundle right now! Don’t miss your chance to truly immerse yourself in some incredibly fine writing from some truly talented folks. And please be sure to spread the word – the more folks who know about this, the better!

Have a great weekend!

The Revolution Continues!

By Jon F. Merz

So some big news today in the world of ebooks and indie publishing. Specifically, the fine folks at Kobo have inked a deal with the American Booksellers Association to sell ebook readers AND ebooks through independent bookstores – potentially 2,000 of them. Why is this big news? Because it opens up a whole new market demographic to indie authors who have previously been unable to penetrate the indie bookstore scene. It also brings indie bookstores into the fold and makes the selling of ebooks and actual income stream for them. This is great for everyone involved – authors, booksellers, publishers, and Kobo itself (as well as Zola, another outfit doing the same thing in the above article)

This announcement is also one further indicator that the walls are crumbling in the traditional publishing world. Now is a fantastic time to be a creator. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book – about even the most niche topic – I think this is the time to do it. As more and more big name authors turn their backs on the traditional publishing world, those publishers will have no choice but to change their Draconian rates and outdated system of business or risk perishing amid the new indie revolution.

I’ve got a fantastic indie bookstore in my town and the thought that the owner might be able to sell ebooks now is wonderful. While many indie store owners have resisted the push toward ebooks, this gives them a huge opportunity to get involved, earn a profit without needing to give up shelf space or hold unpopular inventory, and embrace the future of change – something their customers might really love. Not everyone likes buying from Amazon and would rather support a local indie store, but they might also like the convenience of ebooks. Now they can get both in one place.

I really think this is a great thing for indie bookstores and I’ve been wondering who would be the first company to lead the charge into this incredibly opportune market. I’m glad this is here because things like this raise the tide for all of us indie authors. These are exciting times and as more and more indie bookstores see that ebooks can add to their bottom line, I expect a larger segment to embrace the idea that they can be both a printed bookstore and an ebook store.

Congrats to the fine folks at Kobo for spearheading this charge. Support the indies – authors and bookstores combined!

Vook vs. Kobo

By Jon F. Merz

There are two new platforms for indie authors to potentially sell their ebooks on that have come out in recent months: Kobo and Vook. I’ve been experimenting with both platforms and thought it might be helpful to let you know what I’ve experienced.

Let’s look at Vook first. When Vook first appeared on the radar screen, it seemed as though its main focus was on selling authors and publishers on their ebook conversion service. In other words, you pay them a certain amount of money and they take your files and turn them into a completed ebook. Vook has said it can enhance ebooks published through them with multimedia content, etc. Obviously, as an indie author, I didn’t need to pay them to do the conversion for me – especially considering their prices at the time were rather expensive.

And then Vook also said that it welcomed indie authors who wanted to publish on their Vookstore without distributing to their other content partners. (Vook has a wholesale relationship with Amazon) Anyone choosing to do so would earn 85% royalties per sale. Attractive, yes, since those are the highest in the industry right now.

But let’s look at the process before we jump to the conclusion that Vook is the new powerhouse to publish with. I had registered with the Vook system months back when I first heard about them. However, despite putting my email into the login section and trying to access my account, Vook repeatedly claimed i had the wrong password. When I went to reset my password, Vook told me that my email – the very email they’ve been sending updates to – wasn’t in their system. Grumble grumble. So I registered with another email account and finally got access to the system.

I’m going to hazard a guess and say that whoever designed the Vook interface was an engineer and not an author. In fact, I’d wager that no authors were even consulted during the design process of this interface. Because, frankly, it’s incredibly awkward and not user friendly. The first thing that happens is a pop-up box that asks the title of your ebook. Once you enter this, a whole new screen comes up that looks more like a WYSIWYG editor than a platform to upload your ebook.

And this is important because Vook’s primary focus is NOT (it seems) on servicing experienced indie authors. An experienced indie author will hit Vook’s site and already have good-to-go epub files and cover art images that they simply want to upload, put in the basic info, and then publish.

Unfortunately, Vook wants you to use their services – which cost money – and so, you have to navigate through accordingly. Ignore the first tab and click on the “Upload + File Manager” since that is what indie authors will want. (I’m walking through the process as I write this, and right now, Vook’s site is lagging horribly. >whistling< So, how 'bout the Patriots this season, eh?) Okay, it's back. You'll see the "upload files" icon so click on that and you can upload your epub file. Vook doesn't say if they want you to also upload your cover art at this point or not, but underneath the "upload files" icon they list the supported file types which include .jpg and .png, so I (incorrectly) assumed this was also where I was supposed to upload the cover art. Uh uh. So just upload your .epub file and move on. Click on "Details" and Vook takes you to a new page that asks how you want to distribute your ebook. You can either publish to Vook for free and earn 85% royalties. Or you can pay $99 bucks and have Vook distribute your ebook to Amazon, B&N, and iTunes. Here's where I frowned and gave myself some more wrinkles in my forehead. This is the exact language under the $99 option: "Vook pays you 100% of the royalties the distributors pay to us. We take no cut off your sales in Amazon, BN, and iBooks." Well, not exactly. As I mentioned earlier, Vook has a "wholesale relationship" with Amazon and your cut at other vendors gets a bit "weird." Here's how they break it down: Amazon: You keep 43.2% of royalties of the list price you set Amazon takes 56.8% Barnes & Noble: You keep 50% of royalties, Barnes & Noble takes 50% Apple: You keep 70% of royalties, Apple takes 30% Now, the obvious question is why would you pay Vook to do this for you when you can do it yourself and keep more money? And as an experienced indie author, the fact is, you shouldn't. Vook is focusing itself as an answer to those authors/publishers/media companies who don't want to hassle with preparing files. This seems to be where Vook expects to make its money. Pricing for its services - aside from the $99 distribution - are not available that I could find without contacting Vook and requesting a free evaluation of what you need them to do. I don't know about you, but a lack of transparency always makes me suspicious as to how much Vook charges. Once you get past the distribution pricing screen, you're back to filling out the basic info about your ebook. This section has three more tabs to jump through. This is also where you'll finally upload your cover art. But wait - they only accept .png files for cover art. Mine was in .jpg so that was an extra step I had to go through. The other tabs are fairly basic stuff. Once you've gotten everything filled in, they run your ebook through epubcheck and make sure it's up to snuff. They have terms & agreements you have to agree to and then you publish it. My ebook was supposedly live within about a half hour, but doing a search for "merz" and "ninja" - both keywords I used in the keyword section they asked me to fill out failed to produce results. So I have no clue if the thing is actually on-sale or not. It probably takes a fair amount of time for the info to migrate through their systems. My big problems with Vook come down to this: 1. Interface = clunky. Seriously. It's not pretty or intuitive. It's also clearly geared toward the inexperienced and getting them to pay for services. I would have liked to see two options upon logging in to create a new ebook. One for folks who already have their stuff good-to-go and one for those who might actually want to use Vook's services. 2. Too many steps to go through to publish. Much of it could be accomplished on one screen instead of breaking it up as they have done so. Again, this feels like a serious design problem. 3. Payments - can you say "ugh?" I knew you could. They're quarterly, within sixty days of the end of the quarter. Yuck. Not only that but they only seem to pay by check. And they charge you $5 bucks to process the check. Dear Vook, it's the 21st century. Get with the rest of the innovators and offer net 60 days terms along with the option to direct deposit or Paypal the money over. Check? That feels like a throwback to the publishing dinosaurs of yesteryear. No thanks. Also, I haven't yet seen where I can enter my mailing address for this check to be sent to. It's like Vook forgot that not everyone will be paying them money, so they ignored that option on where to capture that info from. >sigh< As may be obvious by now, my experience with Vook was not the best. I'm not impressed by the platform design, the payment process, the amount of time it took me to get the ebook uploaded (about forty minutes-one hour because Vook also kicked me off and I had to re-login after being idle for a few minutes), or the transparency issue. Vook is new, so I hope they fix a lot of the issues they have right now. Let's move on... I was fortunate enough to be one of Kobo’s beta testers for its Writing Life platform. And again, not to harp on this, but Vook should have gotten beta testers that were actually indie authors to help streamline their own platform. I’m sure the results would have been much, MUCH better.

Kobo’s platform from the outset, is incredibly easy-to-use. There are two screens of information to fill out. The layout is simple and friendly. The information needed is the same as any other publishing platform, and I found Writing Life a very relaxing and simple experience. Exactly what an indie author would want. I had ebooks uploaded within ten minutes. Remarkably fast.

Since Kobo is a Canadian company, they require a Swift code and mailing address for US banks for direct deposit payments. In talking with Mark Lefebvre who is the director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo, they have plans to begin using routing numbers and the like in the future. That was about the only hiccup I had to jump through initially because I had to find out what my bank branch mailing address was. UPDATE: After reading this post, Mark contacted me to let me know they have since changed that field to now accept routing numbers as well – further evidence of how committed Kobo is to providing excellent service to indie authors!

Once you get your material uploaded, Writing Life takes approximately 30 minutes to bring a title out for sale. That’s pretty fast considering both Amazon and Barnes & Noble can be anywhere from a few hours to days. During the beta testing phase, there were a few delays, but that has been cleared up now and my recent uploads have all been processed extremely fast.

Kobo is also incredibly author-friendly. Any questions or problems I had with the process during the beta-test phase were immediately addressed. Ideas and suggestions were incorporated and Kobo’s focus seems to be really on capturing a segment of the indie publishing movement. They’ve done an incredible job of starting to achieve that goal by making things as easy and simple-to-use as possible. There’s nothing confusing about the process. There are no fees or extra gimmicks. You can choose to have your prices set automatically for foreign countries or override them yourself and set the price point where you want it.

Kobo’s Writing Life platform is, frankly, awesome. They obviously took a great deal of time learning what worked for Amazon and Barnes & Noble and then spent an equal amount of time refining the process. Not only that, they went out and recruited Mark Lefebvre, who happens to be an incredible resource for indie authors. Mark is a pleasure to work with – a dedicated writer himself – and clearly knows what indie authors are looking for because Writing Life has everything they need.

Now, I think it’s fair to say that the goals of these two companies are clearly different. Vook is aiming at the inexperienced or the lazy media conglomerate looking to outsource the job of producing ebooks. They’re looking to make their money on their services. Experienced indie authors are a sort-of “extra” bit for them. At least that’s how it felt after using their system.

Kobo’s Writing Life, on the other hand, is clearly aimed at indie authors. And while it’s nice for experienced indies, it is also incredibly easy-to-use for the inexperienced. Aimed as it is at the indie publishing community, I expect Writing Life will easily assume a very powerful position within the industry. They’ve done things in their design than both Amazon and B&N can actually learn from. That’s powerful stuff.

At the end of the day, I’m not convinced that Vook is worthwhile for experienced indies. I’ve got one book up there right now and that’s probably all I’ll do at this point. By contrast, I’m getting all of my 40+ titles up onto Kobo’s Writing Life as soon as possible (I’m under deadlines right now, so the process is on-going.)

Your own mileage may, of course, vary if you choose to publish with either platform so as always, experience them for yourself.

Here’s to your success in publishing!

5 Quick Fixes for Indie Authors

By Jon F. Merz

As I mentioned in a previous post, the summer usually means less activity in publishing. I’ve been hearing that the same slowdown in sales that occurred last summer for indie authors is also occurring this summer. I talked about my some of own sales tactics for combating this before, but there are other things indie authors can do during this sales slowdown that will yield better sales as things pick up again in the Fall. Think of this as your summer check-up before school starts again. (Anyone else remember those trips to the pediatrician before school started? My old doctor was named Dr. Toch and he was a brilliant albeit scary dude with a thick German accent who had volunteered to help treat injured soldiers in Vietnam. Great guy, but man, I used to dread the prospect of getting a shot from him, lol)

1. Fix your website: I started doing this last night. I’ve had some outdated pages on here for a while as well as pages with no content. I updated some of the pages (I still have more to do) and ditched the pages that didn’t have content. When I’m ready to write those pages, they’ll come back. But for now, I don’t want them being dead ends on my website. I also added a new photo on the index page, changed the sidebar on certain pages from an Amazon widget to a “Latest Releases” column with buy links to every platform. I need to rebuild my storefront here and get all of my ebooks listed out here so people who visit can find them all. Keeping content fresh on your website is vitally important. Even if it’s just a new blog post every couple of days. People who visit want to see that you’re active. If they stumble in and your last blog post was about MySpace or Friendster, then chances are you need to get into a schedule of posting more often.

2. Fix your spreadsheet: How is your sales tracker looking? I use an Excel spreadsheet to track my sales, figure out daily averages, predict monthly and yearly revenues, track which products are delivering the best results, etc. The problem is, as I’ve written more books, I’m running out of room. Instead of being easy-to-read, my spreadsheet is looking mighty crowded. So it’s time to redo it and get it back to being easy on the eyes. If yours is the same or becoming so, now would be a good time to make some changes, make sure your formulas are correct for calculating royalties, etc. Even small fixes can make a big difference – and remember: those pennies add up.

3. Fix your ebooks: It may have been a year or more since you last uploaded that ebook file to various sales platforms. During that time, you’ve hopefully written more ebooks. So here’s the question: every time you publish something new, have you gone back and updated your other ebook files – specifically the section where you list your other works? (Don’t worry, I’ve got to do the same thing…) Have you heard from readers that there might be a gremlin or two in the ebook file? Try to set aside time every day to fix or update at least one of your ebook files and then re-upload that to the various platforms where it sells.

4. Fix your schedule: How’s your productivity doing? Been a little sluggish lately, what with summer being here? If you’ve got kids or grandkids out of school for the summer, then your work schedule might be suffering a little bit. But it should suffer, frankly, because spending time with kids is never wasted time as far as I’m concerned. That said, it’s not a bad idea to take a look at your schedule and see how you can improve it for maximum effectiveness when the kids go back to school. Take some time to look at when you work best, when you exercise, when you market, and see if you’re maximizing your time effectively. If not, work on the schedule until it’s something you can commit to and set some goals for getting those new ebooks finished and on-sale.

5. Fix your perspective: Yep, it might be summer and your sales might be down. But that’s no reason to start thinking the end of the world is coming. And honestly, there’s far too much pessimism, cynicism, and outright disgruntled hatred in the world right now. The last thing you want is to add fuel to any of those fires. Instead of thinking negatively – which takes almost no energy or discipline to engage in – spread some positivity. Look for another indie author you respect and promote them on your website for a change. Introduce your fans to this other author’s work (provided your genres are at least somewhat similar). Volunteer some advice to a new indie author just starting out. Look at your own goals and focus on completing at least one new ebook before the end of the summer – remember, every time you put something new on-sale, it’s like you’re giving yourself a raise. It’s a pretty great industry to be in where you can get multiple raises every year! The point is this: ebooks are forever and they’re increasingly popular. New stats released yesterday showed that ebooks are commanding greater numbers than ever before. With more people shifting to ebooks every day, it’s likely more people will find your work – just keep writing and publishing! Not only does your craft improve with every new ebook you write, but more ebooks means more virtual shelf space for you and that’s always a good thing.

Summer is a great time to look at how your systems are doing for maximizing your production and income. I hope these five quick fixes give you some ideas on how you can improve your bottom line and your outlook at the same time. Feel free to add your own ideas below in the comment area and I hope you’ll spread this post around to other indie authors.

Shameless plug time: my new episodic series ZOMBIE RYU just debuted – zombies vs. ninja & samurai in feudal Japan = maximum win. Read about it here & grab a copy! Thanks!

ZOMBIE RYU Debuts!

By Jon F. Merz

You might remember this project idea I had a while back. I created a Kickstarter campaign to try to fund it, but that didn’t work out too well, so I shelved it for a bit until I could figure out the right way to pursue it. About six weeks ago, I finally came up with how I wanted to present this series and now, the very first adventure is live!

Zombie Ryu takes you back in time to feudal Japan where a crazy monk has unleashed a zombie invasion upon the land. They stalk the countryside at night, killing innocents, destroying home and farms, and leaving a wave of paranoia building across the land. For eighteen year old Shigoko (“secret talk”) life has been largely frustrating. She wants nothing more than to become a mighty warrior, but she is stuck on her rundown farm with her father, their most prized possession being an old samurai sword. When Shigoko’s farm is attacked by zombies one night, she flees into the woods and stumbles into the camp of the gnarled ronin Fudo and his squire Nishi.

Shigoko’s life will never be the same.

Fudo is gathering the greatest warriors in Japan – samurai, ninja, ronin – to head north to the most remote places in Hokkaido in their search for the evil monk. Together, they will become known as the Zombie Ryu. Only time will tell if they are successful, and only time will tell if Shigoko has what it takes to become the warrior she has always dreamed of being.

ZOMBIE RYU is written like an episodic television series. Every month, a new 25,000-word episode will debut as the warriors of Zombie Ryu edge ever closer to their goal of ridding Japan of the zombies and the evil monk who created them. Zombie Ryu also features wonderful cover art from my good friend and amazingly talented artist Courtney Rose.

ZOMBIE RYU: Episode One “Torn Asunder” is now on-sale. Grab the first episode in an action-packed new series today!

Get ZOMBIE RYU at Amazon for Kindle
Get ZOMBIE RYU at Amazon UK for Kindle
Get ZOMBIE RYU at Amazon DE for Kindle
Get ZOMBIE RYU at Amazon FR for Kindle
Get ZOMBIE RYU at Kobo for all sorts of e-readers
Get ZOMBIE RYU at Barnes & Noble for Nook
Get ZOMBIE RYU at Smashwords

Since today is launch day, I hope you’ll share this news around to your friends and family. Thank you for your support! Enjoy the series!

Summer Sales Tactics for Indie Authors

By Jon F. Merz

So, it’s the summer (y’know, in case the scorching heat waves hadn’t made that obvious enough) and this is typically the time when the entire NYC traditional publishing beast slows waaaaaaay down. Summer hours mean most NYC publishing professionals leave work at about 3pm to start the weekend, traditional sales slow down as more editors and agents are off on vacations, and in general it’s a dead time. In the old days, if you were a writer, the summer could be a very frustrating time because you weren’t getting any sort of feedback from your agent or potential editors. It used to drive me nuts that months would pass without a peep.

Then along came the ebook revolution. No longer were you forced to bide your time while everyone jetted off to the Hamptons for a luxurious vacation or a weekend party at Diddy’s. Now, with the writers in control, you could sell your work year round. It was a great time of revelation.

But there’s something curious about the summer that still affects publishing: less sales.

See, not only does traditional publishing go off on vacation, but so do readers. Kids are out of school and people aren’t necessarily thinking about buying books during these months. They’re outside (as they should be) enjoying the weather and frolicking and getting their collective groove on. From one perspective, that’s awesome. Happy people is always a good thing, I think.

But from the perspective of a “company” engaged in selling product (namely, my ebooks) any sort of sales drop-off is bad for my business. Last year, my sales dropped in the summer and stayed depressed through the Autumn months. I was still selling well, but not nearly at the volume as last Spring. And it’s not just me this happens to. Ask most indie authors how their sales are right now and you’ll find that the majority of them report that sales have slowed – sometimes dramatically. The question then becomes: what can we do about a sales slowdown?

The popular tactic right now seems to be this idea that writers need to lower their prices. I know of a LOT of indie authors right now who have dropped their prices into the 99 cent cesspool in an attempt to gain exposure with increased sales that will position them on certain bestseller lists. Once that happens, they switch the price back to a higher point and hope to reap some extra sales that way.

I happen to think that’s rather dumb.

First of all, the price you set for your work tells potential customers a lot. There’s been significant talk in the indie author circles that readers equate lower prices with lower quality work. “99 cents for a novel? It can’t be that good.” Now, obviously, that’s not a fair assumption to make. There are plenty of great reads out there for 99 cents. But there are also awful books as well. Dropping your work into that swamp of 99 cent books could tarnish it instead of elevate it.

Second, I don’t like jerking price points around like marionette strings. Consumers aren’t stupid. If I bought something at $4.99 and the next day it dropped to 99 cents, I’d be pissed off. And I probably wouldn’t buy from that author again. I’m not looking to make a quick buck off of people; I’m looking to turn them into lifelong fans of mine. That means treating them with the respect they deserve. I set my prices at a point that I feel is fair to me – as the creator – and fair to them as the consumer.

So rather than going with the flow this summer, I’ve decided to be a bit of a contrarian. My price points will stay where they are right now and we’ll see how sales do. So far, this summer has been very good to me. And next week, I launch my brand new episodic series ZOMBIE RYU, about an 18-year-old girl in feudal Japan who teams up with a grizzled band of warriors to stop a zombie invasion unleashed by an evil sorcerer. A brand new 25,000-word episode debuts each month. It’s a big experiment for me, so it’s going to be very interesting to see how it pans out.

If you’re an indie author, my advice this summer is not to do what everyone else is doing. Be different; set yourself apart. Launch a new project at a time when most people aren’t. Keep your prices where they are. Do things no one else is doing and see what you can do to ensure this summer isn’t about slow sales, but rather about even greater success.

Best of luck!