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.

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!

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!


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!