THE CRUCIBLE is here!

The Crucible Book Cover Hi-ResIt’s been a long time coming…

But the newest Lawson Vampire novel, THE CRUCIBLE, is finally here and EXCLUSIVELY at my new secure website. This is the ONLY place to get the book and you can pay using either a credit card or PayPal.

PLEASE NOTE: The lines where you enter your credit card information (number, expiration date, CC code, etc.) are too small to see what you’re typing, but they DO WORK (I’ve tested them). I’m trying to get that issue sorted right now. Also, once you pay, the CONFIRMATION PAGE will show three file types IN RED that you can download: .mobi for the Kindle, .epub for the Nook and other e-readers, and .pdf for printing or desktop reading.

I hope you all enjoy the latest Lawson adventure! Click on this link to go buy it! https://jonfmerz.net/product/the-crucible-a-lawson-vampire-novel/

Talya’s gone.

Kidnapped by the infamous Xuan Xiang, a former Fixer who has sold out to the Communist Chinese, in a bid to lure Lawson to a final climactic battle where only one Fixer walks away.

But Lawson doesn’t play by the rules. And rather than walk into an ambush, Lawson sets his own plan into motion to rescue the woman he loves. Aided by Jack, the recently-graduated Invoker, they launch their rescue operation, unsanctioned by the Council and thousands of miles from any sort of ally or help.

Deep in western China, Lawson and Jack uncover far more than they expected. And it’s going to take all of their skills combined to ensure their own survival and that of Talya.

Click on this link to go buy it! https://jonfmerz.net/product/the-crucible-a-lawson-vampire-novel/

How to Be a BadAss

badassThis isn’t a “feel good” post where I tell you how wonderful you are for just being you. It’s a kick in the ass to get your shit straight and do something more than you ever have before. It’s your wake-up call to become a badass. But it’s going to take work and dedication. Here’s how you start:

1. Get Over Yourself: Realize your problems are only as big as you make them. This is not to belittle anyone’s issues, because certainly some problems, are in fact, bigger than others. But there’s one thing you can always control about problems: how you react to them. Some people think their world is going to explode over the littlest things and some other people can have a debilitating accident and come back stronger than ever. The one constant? They chose how to react.

2. Learn Some Shit: Seriously. Pick up a book and read. Put down the TV remote. Play Quiz Up on your phone and play in categories you know nothing about. Ask someone about their job and what they do even if you have no desire to do it. Learn about how other people live. The world is much, much bigger than the little box most of us live in. In order to have a greater perspective you need to know more about a whole lot of stuff.

3. Challenge Yourself Everyday: Don’t shy away from a chance to be better or to take a chance. You only grow by challenging yourself and what you did yesterday. Get out of your comfort zone and get comfortable being uncomfortable. And I’m not just talking about challenging yourself in, say, the gym. That’s great. But you’ve got to challenge yourself every single day in all aspects of your life. Why did you react that way to that idiotic driver? Why did you get mad? Sure, sometimes it’s justifiable, but for the most part, it’s probably not. (This is something I happen to struggle with, so I figured I’d use it as an illustration of how I try to deal with it…) Also, note that I am not talking about having an inner monologue where you constantly destroy yourself with thoughts like, “I’m stupid, I suck, I’m an idiot.” But I *am* talking about constantly checking yourself. Challenge your thought process and you’ll start to understand a whole lot more about who you are as a person. And knowing yourself is pretty damned important.

4. Exercise: You’ve got one body, don’t let it fall apart on you. I’ve lost count of how many Facebook updates I see where people who should know better just let themselves go to shit. Writers especially. I can count on one hand the number of writers I know who are active about their fitness. The rest sit around all day and eventually find their bodies are a mess. Clean your diet up as well. You don’t have to become a vega-nazi, but if you’re eating fast food every day then you’re pretty much poisoning yourself. Try to eat better five days each week and give yourself two days to cheat and eat bad stuff and drink if you wish. It’ll keep you somewhat sane and at the same time, clean up your system.

5. Give Back: Other people aren’t as fortunate as you – no matter where you are in life – so make a point to help someone. Even if it’s just a smile or a few minutes listening to them. You’d be amazed how few people actually know how to listen. Give someone a hand and help them reach the next rung on the ladder. Generate some good karma. Don’t be a selfish jerk. And fer cryin’ out loud, don’t be a cheap prick. There are few things worse than a cheap tightwad who has convinced himself he’s somehow wise about money because he scored a coupon and saved a few bucks. Cheap people aren’t just cheap financially, they’re cheap emotionally. Don’t be like that. I’m pretty sure no one on their death bed ever said, “thank god I got the two-for-one special instead of splurging that night.” Life is about experiences; not about waiting until the day after Halloween to buy all your candy for next year at 90% off.

6. Dream Big. Aspire to something. Get crazy and realize a dream that you’ve been chasing for years or have backburnered because you’re a certain age and think you shouldn’t want that anymore. What? Fuck that. Get after it.

7. Create a Legacy: Make something that will endure after you’re gone. Write a book. Paint a picture. Sing a song and record it. None of these have to be published or hang in a gallery on play on a radio station, but make them anyway so that future generations will have the chance to know you and what you were passionate about. You are not defined by your children; you are defined by who you are and how you live.

8. Stop Complaining: seriously. Just stop. Too hard? Then try going 24 hours without bitching about anything. Build up from there. You’d be utterly and completely amazed how much your perspective changes when you stop wasting energy on complaining. After all, complaining does absolutely nothing except make you feel momentarily better by giving it voice. Imagine how much better you’d feel if you actually changed something instead of simply complaining about it.

9. Dare: Dare to live. Dare to go against the flow. Dare to be an individual and not a sheep. Dare to laugh in the face of adversity. Dare to ignore what others will say about you. Dare to go off on some wild adventure. Dare to flirt. Dare to feel passion within your chest again. Dare to imagine a different life than the one you have and see if you want to make some changes for real. Dare to be outrageous. Dare to laugh more. Dare to open yourself up and let others into your world. Dare to be vulnerable. Dare to change your hairstyle. Dare to dance in the rain. Dare to be the full embodiment of a true human being. Dare to be YOU.

***

Look, your life comes down to this: you can either stay where you are, complain endlessly about useless shit, spew negative energy out into the universe every time you complain about something in your life you don’t like OR you can change your life into what you used to dream it would be. You can’t sit there and read this and think, “yeah but…” and give yourself an out by creating an excuse. Fuck that shit. Fuck your excuses. Fuck settling for what you don’t truly want.

Change is hard, but so is anything worthwhile. So what? You’d rather live a life full of misery and negative energy? Guess what? That shit catches up with you and manifests itself in your physical, mental, and spiritual health. You can literally create your own death by being awash in negativity.

What you have to stop doing is the same old shit, over and over again and expecting things to somehow change miraculously. If you’re some place in your life where you find yourself complaining on a daily basis, being jealous of others who don’t struggle like you do, or are resentful of something, then you need to change and you need to do it now. The old way ain’t working. Change it up. Change your perspective. Change how you react to stuff.

“Yeah, but…”

No.

“Easier said than done.”

No shit. I never said it would be easy anyway. In some ways, this will be the absolute toughest stuff you’ve ever attempted before.

“It’s just that…”

No, it fucking isn’t.

Those are excuses you’re generating to save yourself from doing the hard work of change. And if you keep making excuses, you will never, ever change. You’ll just continue to wallow in the cesspool of your unhappy existence, complaining to anyone who has the patience to listen to your whining. Being a badass isn’t something you “sorta” do; you either do it all the way, or you don’t. You either make the changes needed or you stay the same. And if you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to do it. Or you’ll just find another excuse to remain the same.

Climb out of the cesspool and start taking charge of your life. People are pissing you off? Deep-six them. You hate your job? Put some money away and then quit it and find a new one. Your relationship sucks? Bin it and find someone new. There are six billion people on this planet – chances are good there’s someone better out there for you. Is your progress stalled at the gym? Change up your training and start making gains again.

You can be a badass – an honest-to-god badass – but you’ve got to be honest with yourself, do the hard work, and not settle for anything less than your dreams. The vast majority of people on this planet do not possess the perseverance to do this. The vast majority of people on this planet are either miserable or have conned themselves into thinking that mediocrity is acceptable and safe and as close to happiness as they will ever come.

Not you.

If you’ve read this far, then there is a part of you (and it doesn’t matter how tiny) that wants to do something more, to aspire to greater heights, to not settle for mediocrity, to live with passion and hope and happiness, and to see your dreams come true.

You can do it. I know you can. Others have already done it. Others with far less than you have.

Believe in yourself. Don’t make excuses. Get your head down and do the work.

You want it? Go get it.

Never Quit.

Why Reviews Matter

Valuable intelligence is often disguised as a throwaway bone at the tail end of a conversation. If you’re not attuned to being able to objectively assess scraps of information, the human mind has a tendency to disregard much of what it hears and sees. This is a byproduct of the media overload we experience on a daily basis – we’re immersed in so much noise, that sifting through for the good stuff often demands more energy and effort than we want to commit.

One of the things I learned recently was this past weekend during a conversation about publishing. The two people involved are industry veterans who know this stuff inside and out, so because it was so matter-of-fact, they didn’t attach too much importance to it. In other words, they didn’t turn to me and say, “Hey Jon, do you know this? Because you should definitely know it.” Instead, it was a throwaway line that I would have probably missed but for years of training and great teachers along the way (Tom…Mark….etc.) who taught me how to absorb and later examine what I’ve witnessed in order to determine the value of such things.

Reviews, in the publishing industry, are fairly standard fare. New books come out and the ARCs (advance reader/review copies) circulate among trades to garner reviews which are then used on covers to entice readers into buying copies. Sometimes, those reviews are great, sometimes they’re mediocre, and sometimes (like in my case with Publisher’s Weekly savaging my latest novel THE UNDEAD HORDES OF KAN-GUL) they are terrible. Reviews can also be used to drum up interest in subrights, foreign translations, etc. Typical practice when a review comes in is judicious editing to extract cool lines that make the book sound better.

For example, if the review says something like this: “Derek Twinklemeister’s latest missive shows that while he understands the mechanics of writing a sentence, the natural gift of storytelling still eludes him. While the prose is tight, the characters are wooden. There are brief glimpses of skill with regards to the pacing, but otherwise, the novel careens ahead and ends in a boring fashion.”

You can bet that it will look more like this on the cover or back of a book: “Derek Twinklemeister’s latest is natural, tight, and careens ahead with incredible pacing.”

But reviews DO matter. And they matter quite a bit on Amazon.com. Apparently, the good folks who determine which titles get featured for the Kindle routinely examine book reviews written on the site and make judgments based on those reviews as to whether they should promote them or not. And promotion in this case – unlike what many of the reviews in the trades can do – actually translates into sales. LOTS of sales.

Amazon, after all, has the email addresses of millions upon millions of people. They can reach out and turn a flagging book into a bestseller. Almost instantly. Nowhere else in the book business is this actually possible, unless you happen to buy your way on to the New York Times bestseller list.

Which brings me to my point of this post: reviews on Amazon. Currently, THE UNDEAD HORDES OF KAN-GUL has 5 reviews for the paperback and 6 for the Kindle version. That’s not much. Not much at all, given that the book has been out for over a month now. So I’m asking you to take a moment and head over, write a review (it doesn’t have to be long) and post it for both the paperback and the Kindle version, if possible. If you’re visiting this site from another country, please leave the review on your country’s Amazon site instead. My goal is to get a lot more reviews of THE UNDEAD HORDES so more people find out about it, so the good folks at Amazon take notice, and maybe throw some promotion behind it.

So many things are out of a writer’s hands when a book comes out, but this – asking you to write a review – is something I can somewhat control. I hope you’ll do so – especially if you enjoyed the book. And you haven’t bought the book yet – GASP! – feel free to pick it up!

Many thanks!

Zombie Walk Recap

So last Friday, I took off for Asbury park, New Jersey to attend the Zombie Walk – a gathering of zombie enthusiasts from all over as they attempted to break the Guiness World Record for most zombies participating in a walk. Baen Books, my publisher of THE UNDEAD HORDES OF KAN-GUL, brought me down there on their dime to be the featured author at the event.

I shot down on the Acela to NYC and then switched trains, getting into New Jersey shortly before 5pm. My agent, Joe Monti, met me at the train station and we drove over to the shore together, catching up on business and the like. Joe’s an awesome guy and he’s always been very supportive of my work.

Jim Minz, my editor over at Baen, met us at the hotel and got me checked in. After a quick change and freshening up, we headed out to dinner for some Cuban food and live Calypso music. We had an awesome meal, and Baen’s Sales & Marketing rep Corinda met us at the restaurant. Great conversation was had and by the time dinner was over, I was ready to crash. Jim was suffering from a cold all weekend, so he was all for calling it quits as well – especially since we had an early day on Saturday.

Saturday morning we met downstairs and headed out to breakfast. Frank’s Diner was recommended by the front desk and it didn’t disappoint. Huge piles of great food served cheap. (I love me a good greasy spoon!) I had my first donut in years and man, it was delicious.

After breakfast, we headed back to the Stone Pony and started setting up the booth. The day was gray and cloudy and humid. I hadn’t brought any shorts with me, figuring that it would be cooler on the water. As the sun broke through the haze, it got much, much warmer. But by that point, we had thousands of zombies filing past our booth and the fun didn’t stop.

Jim, Corinda, and I manned the booth all day long and we got hundreds of dollars in donations for the Wounded Warrior Project in exchange for signed copies of THE UNDEAD HORDES. Felt great moving so many books, but also knowing that proceeds were going to a great cause. At one point, I took the hand cart Jim had brought along over to the boardwalk and moved hundreds of copies of the book after basically being mobbed by zombies. It was pretty awesome. Young kids and adults alike seemed to be really excited about the book and the event itself.

Exhausted, Jim and I closed the booth shortly before 6pm, headed back to the hotel and crashed for a bit before meeting back downstairs in the lobby for dinner. We enjoyed a good meal, talked about a huge variety of topics – family, politics, publishing, books, and much more. Definitely awesome getting to talk with him so much. Jim’s a great guy and I’m happy he digs my writing.

Sunday we headed over to Princeton to meet back up with Joe and his family for brunch. It was fantastic getting to meet his family for the first time and brunch was spectacular. Jim and I debriefed him on how Saturday went and then we took a stroll around Princeton before Jim drove me into the train station at Trenton for my journey home.

The train was delayed and I ended up getting home an hour later than expected, but after such an amazing weekend, it was hard to be disappointed with Amtrak. A lot of things were discussed over the course of the weekend – one of which is the fact that we will be doing more books in the Shadow Warrior Saga. On the way down, I sketched out details for books 4, 5, and 6, and once book 2 is in the production pipeline, Jim and I will try to finalize that deal (provided sales are strong for the first book.)

With that said, if you haven’t grabbed a copy of THE UNDEAD HORDES already, you really should do so now. And if you have a copy, have read it and enjoyed it, please PLEASE head over to Amazon and write up a review for me. I found out this weekend that reviews on Amazon factor critically into which books Amazon promotes. I could use some Amazonian promotion behind THE UNDEAD HORDES right now, so please get a review posted on the main site and any international sites you might have access to. THANK YOU!

Grab a print copy of THE UNDEAD HORDES by going here.
You can also get a copy for the Kindle here.
And if you have a Nook, you can get a copy here.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to get caught up on all the Lawson Vampire adventures. THE CRUCIBLE hits before the holidays!

5 Key Tips for Indie Authors in 2013

By Jon F. Merz

I had a great year of sales in 2012. As detailed in my previous post, I did quite well selling ebooks that I released independently. But I try to never rest on my laurels – because, frankly, laurels aren’t all that comfortable.

So what am I doing now that I hope to see bear fruit in 2013 and push my ebook sales goals even higher? Let’s take a look at some of the things indie authors can do to improve their sales over the next twelve months.

1. Invest in Your Business

This may sound more like something “regular companies” do, but if you’re an indie author, you’d better be treating your writing like it IS a business if you have any hope of sustaining or improving sales. To that end, you need to take some of your profits and reinvest them back into your company. How? Here are a few things you could be improving:

  • Website: is it professional enough? Are there any pages that need tweaking? Any that need completing? I’m still trying to get this site completely functional, myself!
  • Book Covers: are all of your books selling enough? Are they meeting your goals? If not, maybe you should try a different cover.
  • Analytics: see below

2. Newsletter

You do have a newsletter, right? It is the single most important piece of marketing you have access to: people who have given you permission to market to them directly by virtue of them signing up for it. Your email list is far more important than most realize and it’s the one source of data you have that isn’t reliant on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites. If all of those go away overnight, you’ll still have that list. Make sure you pack it full of good stuff – news, free fiction, and more. Get a reliable email service provider that offers detailed stats on click rates, open rates, etc. This is data you need that will tell you whether you’re doing it right.

3. Analytics

Speaking of stats, do you have Google Analytics installed on your website? Do you know where your traffic is coming from? Do you know which of your site’s pages are the most heavily trafficked or how long surfers are staying on your site? Analytics are a vital tool that will help you refine your marketing efforts. If your landing page isn’t capturing the attention of surfers, then change the landing page until it does. Is your sales funnel channeling prospects to key pages and then getting them sign up for your newsletter or purchase your ebooks? Analytics will help you determine all of this and more. I know next to nothing about analytics and how to make it hum, so I’ve brought in a real pro to help me. This is another investment in my business. Yes, it costs money upfront, but I fully expect to make back many times the amount I’m spending now once I can look at the reports and see how I can improve. If you don’t know much about analytics, find someone who does who can help you figure this out.

4. Read More

You’re shaking your head at this one saying, “Yeah, Jon, we’re writers. We know we need to read more. We do anyway.” Great. Happy to hear it. Are you reading Fortune Magazine? What about free articles on Stratfor? Are you tuned in to key development continents like Africa? Are you thinking ahead enough to see where sales will be coming from in the future? There will be thousands of opportunities in the near future, but only for those who know they exist. Don’t shortchange your future by failing to read about coming waves of business opportunities now. There are a LOT of things happening across the world that indie authors can position themselves to take advantage of. Free ebook programs for disadvantaged youths in the rain forests might not sound like it will add to your bottom line, but in ten years when those kids are grateful your work and have elevated themselves out of poverty, they might just become your biggest evangelicals.

5. Help Others

Again, a lot of you are probably saying that you do this anyway, but do you? It’s not enough to simply retweet another author every week or so. You have to look for ways to positively impact the lives of other people – not just those you’re attempting to sell to. Look at your Facebook newsfeed and find someone you might only “kinda sorta” know. Take a day or so and learn as much as you can about them. Drop them a note. Say hi. Appreciate them. Nothing is cooler than getting a pleasant note out of the blue from someone. They might be having a bad day and your message is just the thing that helps them get through it. It doesn’t take money; it just takes effort and sincerity. Given the pace of our world and the level of insincerity that exists in so many areas, the gift of genuine attention is precious and rare. Even if it doesn’t translate into money in your pocket, it definitely generates good karma. And we can all use a little more of that!

Thanks for reading!

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