Frosty The Hitman A Blazing Success!

So, at midnight on Christmas Day, as the 24th ticked over into the 25th, I launched the annual Christmas freebie that I write for friends and fans. This year’s entry was FROSTY THE HITMAN, a 5600-word story. Along with the story itself, the ebook contained 3-chapter excerpts from both THE FIXER and THE INVOKER, an author’s note from me, an invitation to subscribe to my free newsletter, and a list of all the current Lawson adventures as of December 2011.

I put the blog post out and wondered what sort of reception it would get, how many people would download it, etc. etc. My hope was that I’d get about 200 downloads of the story, especially considering it was Christmas Day and a lot of people would be otherwise preoccupied. In addition to my blog post, I set up automatic tweets announcing it on Twitter. I also asked for a small group of my fans to Tweet, Retweet, and post things on their blogs and Facebook to help spread the word. Then I sat back and waited to see what would happen.

Today’s the 29th and as of this writing, here are the results:

Total number of downloads: 1836
Kindle file downloads: 966
Epub file downloads: 444
.pdf file downloads: 426

Christmas Day and yesterday saw the most traffic. Yesterday is not surprising since I sent out a bulletin to my newsletter subscribers about Frosty and they certainly responded. Plus, I got a mention over on Books On The Knob about Frosty being free. That exposure definitely helped!

In addition, I picked up roughly 50 new subscribers to my newsletter. My Christmas Day post also received a large number of Facebook “likes,” which then show up in the person’s timeline (thereby potentially leading more people to the post). It was also +1’d out on Google+ by twelve more people, earning me some penetration on that social media website as well. As far as tweets and retweets go, the tracking showed that 1,159 people clicked the link, 25 people shared it on Facebook, and it was retweeted well over 100 times.

Then there were the comments and tweets from people who hadn’t read Lawson yet. Of the nearly 2,000 downloads, I’m hoping that at least 25% are new to the series. 500 potential new readers is a pretty great gift to get for giving something back to my already-awesome fans.

So, to everyone who helped spread the word about Frosty, my sincere thanks. This year’s freebie gift was an fantastic success and I couldn’t have done it without you all helping and downloading away. As 2012 comes roaring in, Lawson is going to have an even bigger year than 2011. Tons of new adventures, big movement ahead on the TV production, and more news besides. Keep talking Lawson up to your friends and family – we’re going to be doing some amazing things together and I want everyone of you along for the fun-filled ride!

Happy New Year & thanks!

October is Fan Month!

So as we draw to a close on September (huh? what? where did that month go, eh?) I thought I’d let you in on just ONE of the cool things that will be happening in October. I happen to love October. It’s my birthday month, it was my late father’s birthday month (we usually celebrated together, which was always nice) and Halloween happens to be at the end. So I thought it would be fun to turn this October into “Fan Month.” Everyday throughout the month, I will be calling one fan each day, thanking them for their support, and having a quick chat with them. It’s completely unscripted stuff and it’s your chance to ask me pretty much anything you want (within reason). I’ll be doing these video calls over Skype and recording them for everyone to watch. They’ll last about 10 minutes and it’s my way of saying thank you to a select group of folks who have been kind enough to buy my work and stand behind me as I travel this crazy path of being a writer.

All you need to do to throw your name into the hat and possibly get picked is be a fan of my work: and by that I mean you should be up-to-date on all of my writing, whether it’s Lawson or some of the standalone work I’ve done. Ideally, you’ve read most of my stuff and have questions about my writing process, my venture into indie ebooks, traditional publishing, TV production, etc. etc. etc.

Now, you’ve got to be okay with the fact that I’m recording these calls and using them as I see fit (which means I’ll make them public, cross-post them on Youtube and Facebook, and generally make them available for anyone to see and comment on) as well as be available on the day of the call (winners will be notified beforehand in order to schedule things properly.) But I think this will be a ton of fun. Each day Monday-Friday, we’ll do a fan call and then post them. I’m sure they’ll be amusing, entertaining, and will lead many people to the spiritual enlightenment they seek.

Well, maybe not that last one.

But they will be fun!

HOW TO ENTER: Okay, so let’s get to it. Want to chat with me? All you have to do is send your name, email, and your favorite line from one of my works (something a character said or something written in the narrative) to jonfmerz AT verizon DOT net. That’s it. I’ll start picking the winners immediately and scheduling the calls. Not up to speed on my work and want to get caught up? For Kindle users, you can find my work here. And for Nook users, the list of available work is here.

Get going! 🙂

30,000 EBooks

Today marks a nice milestone: since February of this year, I’ve sold 30,000 ebooks. When I started putting up my backlist in late-January, I had no idea what I was in for. Would everything flop? Would it take off?

The results are pretty damned awesome, actually. 30,000 is a great number (although I’m obviously shooting for 100,000 by the end of the year) and knowing that I’m finding an audience for my work is truly a blessing. The majority of my sales are for my Lawson Vampire series and that’s good news as well. Given everything (hint, hint) that will be happening soon around THAT, it’s good to know that more people are discovering Lawson every month. In fact, out of the 30,000 ebooks I’ve sold, I’d say roughly 25,000 are sales of my various Lawson adventures, more on the Kindle than on the Nook, but strong everywhere. Lawson has proven his worth as an enduring and endearing character. He’s not for everyone (only the sexy people, lol) but those who know him seem to enjoy him.

Even with the summer slowdown, my ebooks have continued to sell consistently across the board. I’ve got new releases coming soon, plus plans to offer pretty much everything in print. And audio as well. Big things are afoot for the Autumn months. But you’ll hear more on that in the coming weeks. Plus, I hope to finally be able to reveal who my publisher is for my new Fantasy series. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I’d like to add one final thought: thank you. Thank you for being a supporter of my work. Thank you for talking it up to friends and family. Thank you for hopping on-board the adventures I create and allowing me to whisk you away into the crazy chaos that is my fiction. With your permission, I’ll gladly be doing it for many, many years to come.

Have a great day and thanks again!


A lot of you have been asking when the next Lawson novel is coming out. As you might know, I walked away from a deal with St. Martin’s Press to publish the next Lawson because what they were offering was simply not good enough to make me want to partner with them again. That said, I’m committed to getting the next novel – THE RIPPER – out in a timely fashion for those of you wondering where Lawson is headed next. So, THE RIPPER will be out in time for the holiday season. In this next installment, we get to see a lot more of Arthur’s backstory from when he was a Fixer in London a long time ago. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I can’t wait to release it. It will be available first as an ebook. But I’m looking around for a publisher – preferably a publisher that “gets it,” when it comes to the new emerging business model of publishing – to sell print rights to the entire series. I want Lawson in print and even if I have to do it myself, I’m going to get him out there. (So if you know any cool publishers, please drop me a line…)

Also, OATHBREAKER is coming along nicely. Still not sure whether this will be a Lawson short story or a novella. But I expect to have that done by the start of the Autumn season.

Things are a bit slow right now because it’s summer and my sons are home, so my productivity has diminished quite a bit. Expect a LOT of stuff coming at you over the next few months, though. PREY will be out soon, DEATH MASTER will be out soon, and a bunch of other stuff. I should have news on a new series pretty soon as well as the progress on THE FIXER TV series. Trust me when I tell you this: the Autumn is going to be awesome. And busy. But that’s good stuff.

I’m out on Google+ now, so be sure to add me to your circles.

In the meantime, I’m preparing to release the next issue of my FREE newsletter and you should totally subscribe if you haven’t already. Also, make sure you’re all caught up on the Lawson series by grabbing the adventures out on Amazon for the Kindle or Barnes & Noble for the Nook.

Have a great weekend everyone & thanks for reading!

Indie Vs. Traditional Publishing & The Value of IPs

I’ve seen a great many blog posts lately that argue the merits of indie publishing vs. traditional publishing. Most of the time, these blogs mention the astounding sales numbers that folks like John Locke and Amanda Hocking have done for their indie ebooks. (For those who don’t know, John Locke recently became the first indie author to sell one million ebooks and he did so in five months. Amanda Hocking had a very successful indie career and recently signed a $2 million traditional deal with St. Martin’s Press) And each post usually has a long line of comments that debate the pros and cons of the various ways authors make money.

And yet, by and large, most fail to address the very simple root of what it is that earns a writer his or her money: the idea.

IP, or intellectual property, is by far the most valuable aspect of any book. It doesn’t really matter what form that IP takes; without the idea itself, it’s worthless. Now this may seem painfully obvious, yet judging by the content of comments and blog posts, very few people seem to realize how to maximize their return on it, or even how certain IPs are more valuable than others.

Speaking for myself, my Lawson Vampire universe is probably the most valuable IP I have in my stable right now. It’s an established series, with a dedicated fan base. My good friend Jaime Hassett and I are bringing it to TV through THE FIXER series and we have plans on expanding it across various entertainment platforms. The combined 6 novels, 3 novellas, and 6 short stories sell roughly 1,000 copies each week and have done so consistently since they went live in late-January of this year. As the audience grows and we explore various other platforms, the value of this IP will grow exponentially. That’s useful for a number of reasons, but the most important reason may be that it gives me an idea of how much its value is when it comes to licensing or selling certain rights. In other words, if a traditional (or legacy) publisher came along at this moment and offered me a contract for certain rights, it would need to be a very good one. I place tremendous value on the Lawson Vampire IP – especially since I know where the franchise is headed and what the potential earnings are.

But what about IPs that aren’t worth as much? Are there some that are, potentially, worth far less? I’ve seen arguments on both sides of the publishing fence about going only one way or the other. But I disagree with this approach. Is there a way to embrace both the indie route and the traditional/legacy route that works?

Let’s go back to Lawson for a moment. As of right now, you can probably still locate copies of THE KENSEI in bookstores. St. Martin’s Press brought the book out January 18th, 2011, so there’s a fair chance it’s still on the shelves in your local store. But otherwise, I currently have no real print presence aside from the Rogue Angel novels that I’ve written under the pseudonym Alex Archer. You won’t find books by “Jon F. Merz” in the store. And frankly, a lot of people still want their books the old fashioned way. So the question I need to ask myself is this: am I losing out on potential income by *not* having a print presence in stores? The answer is almost certainly yes.

Not only am I losing out on potential income from the sale of printed works of whatever IP I sell to a traditional publisher, but I’m also losing out on income that my printed book(s) might send to my ebook products. In other words, if a person buys one of my books in a store, then visits my website and sees that I have a whole lot of other books for sale as ebooks, they might be inclined to buy them. But without that initial trigger – the print book – sending more audience my way, I’m losing out.

So what to do? Do I compromise and settle for a crappy deal – one that pays me a junk royalty rate and a crummy advance? Or do I eschew traditional publishing altogether and keep my audience and earnings growing at a slower pace with ebooks?

Or is there a third alternative that allows me to keep my ebook “empire” intact, still pursue traditional deals, and reap the benefits of both? I think there is. But it requires you to be honest in your assessment of your various IPs. You need to think about how much they might potentially be worth and be prepared to discover they might not be worth all that much.

After all, it’s probably fair to assume that not every middle grade adventure series is going to turn out to be the next Harry Potter. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that it won’t be. Likewise for the next two thousand paranormal heroine series that get churned out. Not all are going to be popular. So, which among your IPs could you stand to have not become incredibly popular?

Note: I realize that asking you to imagine your work being unsuccessful may be asking a lot. None of us want to believe that our stuff isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread. But change your perspective and take your ego out of the equation for a moment – it might be quite valuable.

And once you know which IP that is, then perhaps it might be worth it to take a less-than-stellar deal in order to get a print presence in bookstores, one that would then drive more traffic to your other IPs, further enhancing your bottom line in a number of ways.

Now, I can already hear the outrage over this post: “You’re telling us to give our junk to publishers?” No, that’s not what I’m advocating. I’m simply saying that if you have an idea for a 3-book series that you know you only want to do 3 books of, then perhaps it’s worth selling that to a traditional publisher while you keep the gold mine stuff in your hip pocket. If your story arc only works as 3 books or 1 book or whatever, then there’s no way you’d blow that out to 27 books unless the series actually *did* turn out to be insanely popular. And if that did happen, you could then negotiate for better terms, refuse the deal outright and turn indie for the next books, or come up with some sort of happy medium.

The point here is that there doesn’t have to be an either/or route for writers any longer. Going back to my Lawson series for a moment, my 5th book in the series is what I’ve affectionately called my “loss leader.” In other words, I signed a fairly crummy deal to get a Lawson print presence back in stores. And I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the e-rights to the particular book might not be back in my hands for a very long time. But I was willing to settle for that deal because it meant I had a reestablished presence in bookstores (something I hadn’t had for my fiction since 2003) that I could then use to drive people to my ebooks. And the equation has worked incredibly well. As I detailed above, the combined works in the Lawson universe sell roughly 1,000 units each week. And that’s some pretty good money. But I doubt I would have had the opportunity to expose as many people to the ebooks if it hadn’t been for the print version being available. Now granted, there are a lot of other steps I took around the print release to further expand that notice (appearing on blogs, doing interviews, etc.) but the point is, I recognized the fact that I felt I needed a print presence – even temporarily.

Some may argue that there’s no way to tell what the long term earning potential of an IP would be given such unpredictable factors as public appeal, lightning in a bottle, that sort of thing. And I’d agree – to a point. I think authors know better than most what their ideas are worth and not all ideas are created equally. Likewise, not all IPs are going to earn you millions. If you’re savvy enough to study the business world and the technology that is coming, smart authors will understand how to position themselves to take fullest advantage of the future. And some may well find that selling a less-valuable IP to a traditional publisher not only works well for the publisher, but also for the author.

Thoughts? 🙂