Clarissa Johal: April 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Guest Blogger

Know Your Audience
by Keith Yatsuhashi 

Years ago, a man came into my office in need of help. He said an official in South America planned to grant him the rights to an island that he could then turn into an executive retreat. P.T. Barnum would’ve been proud, as would all the souls who sold the Brooklyn Bridge to unsuspecting buyers. Now at first glance, something like this might lead you to think a good salesman can sell just about anything to anyone. I would argue--as I’m sure Mr. Barnum would too--a sale like this is really based on something else, something all good marketers understand: you have to know your audience. No city councilman would buy the Brooklyn Bridge. No lawyer would either. And no con man worth his salt would waste his time on them. He’d look for a better mark.

So, how do you, an author with or without marketing experience find those marks? The good news is that it’s not hard as you think, particularly for genre writers. The answer’s right there in the sentence I just typed: genre. Romance readers like their romance, ditto for thriller readers, mystery readers, SF/Fantasy, etc. Genre is the key. Focus on what you know about your genre itself then look for places where its fans congregate. And not just book fans. That’s the key.

Our culture is obsessed with media: TV, movies, Internet, what-have-you. Like it our not, that’s where people go for information, both to share and receive it. Forget the bookstore customer for a moment and look at the bigger, media-driven picture. Not long ago, my daughter and I were talking about Harry Potter. One of her friends liked the movie. She didn’t know it was a book. I’ll give you a minute to pull yourself back together before I continue. Recovered yet? Good. This little anecdote is more common than you’d imagine, and it’s why you need to start at the top of the funnel, the widest part. From there, you’ll find all kinds of paths you didn’t know existed.

Let’s say you’re obsessed with mysteries or are selling one. Have you thought about browsing through fan sites for CSI or other top TV shows? The BBC’s Sherlock is hot right now. Bet you can find a lot of new fans there. Those of us who write science fiction and fantasy have a whole host of outlets. Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who. At some point these audiences converge. Follow them, join message boards and fan groups--as a fan yourself, not as someone selling something--nobody likes it when you do that.  Naturally, once they get to know you, you can let it slip that you have a book. At the same time, you make sure you put that info, along with your web presence in your signature. Don’t do more than that.

Don’t forget to note where you’ve been. Even if you don’t join these sites, the most popular ones might be open to reviewing your book. Always remember, fans go to sites for a reason, and the web masters are also looking for ways to keep their audience. That means keeping things fresh. Maybe they’re not readers or, what I call, book people. Don’t let that stop you. A fan who put up a Harry Potter movie site might well be open to reviewing a book with the same fan base. Potter’s over, but they need to keep their site going. You won’t know until you email them. FWIW, I recently sent a review copy to a site that doesn’t review books. Crazy? Maybe, but the writer asked for it, and I asked if she would send it to the right contact, or, if she liked it, to spread the word. You never know.

Okay. Now that we’ve identified our audience, how do we keep them? Let’s move away from our con man example and look at something else. Have you ever watched a truly seasoned performer milk the crowd? It’s breathtaking. People like this take their audience’s pulse in an instant. The best will peek into the hall as soon as the doors open to get a feel for it. If it’s dead, they’ll add energy to wake it. If it’s alive, they’ll tap into and channel the wave. A marketer needs to do that too.

When I first started promoting my book, my daughter insisted I use Instagram. It’s where all the kids are, she said. She set up an account for me and even ran it for a while. She then started her own page and made sure to feed mine. My first pics had to do with my book. The response was dismal, and in hindsight, I should have expected it. Instagram is about snazzy, funny pictures, or personal ones. Research that first--who puts up what on what social media sites. A few clicks and some feedback from my daughter’s friends was all it took.

I abandoned saying anything about my book, except for the occasional reminder that it was coming. I searched for subscribers who liked books and media similar to my book and sent out friend requests. The majority went to fans of Japanese animation, science fiction, and fantasy.  My daughter supplemented that on her site with YA and other stuff girls her age are into. That was back in October. Since then, I’ve built up 1500 followers on Instagram with fun and funny pics I knew my audience would appreciate--trial and error there. Instinct worked well, but tracking which types of pics received the most likes was key.

Keep in mind who I identified as a natural audience--anime fans. As my book’s release neared, I had my daughter find some pics of popular anime characters reading. Next, we edited the photos so that the cover of the book matched mine. In the pic, we inserted some well-chosen sentences that we knew would get their attention. Not all were successful--probably because I did it too often. The ones that were, though, received as many likes as my snazzy, funny pictures. I made sure to post those pics with many other ones unrelated to my book. That way I didn’t call attention to it. You don’t want your followers to think you’ve abandoned what they like about your site. If they believe you’re only putting up things they don’t care about, you’ve lost them.

Finally, wherever you go, remember to keep things brief, something I neglected to do here. Likely, many who started reading this post didn’t finish. That’s okay. Those who did are my audience: authors looking for tips from other authors. I hope you find mine helpful. Now. Find your mark, get on it, get set...and go!

Purchase Keith Yatsuhashi's debut novel KOJIKI

Keith Yatsuhashi was born in 1965 in Boston, MA. He graduated from Northeastern University in 1989 and is currently the Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center in Providence, Rhode Island.
Keith was a competitive figure skater for ten years, winning the U.S. National Junior Dance Championships in 1984, a bronze medal in the 1983 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, and a silver medal in 1984.
In addition to his love for writing, Keith enjoys many hobbies such as golf, reading, and playing football and hockey with his sons. Keith currently lives in Norfolk, MA with his wife, Kathleen and three children-- Caitlin, Jeffrey, and Justin. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Artistic Solitude...or, Go Away, I'm Writing.

Oh, happy day! I’ve finished my next supernatural horror novel, STRUCK. One more go-through, and it’s ready to send off the publisher. 

I’ve been writing in fits and starts and grabbing writing time when I can. I love my family and wouldn’t trade them for the world, but, oh my gosh, we’ve been on a busy schedule this past year. It’s a schedule I sometimes find extremely frustrating as an author. Especially when I require a HUGE block of time to read my manuscript from beginning to end—the only way to assure myself of a smooth, cohesive, storyline.
I’ve hinted to my husband, who puts up with much, that it might be nice if I was able to book a hotel room for one night. It would allow me this final time I need, and with absolutely no distractions. No dogs to play door-slave to, no cats asking to be fed/pet/cleaned-up after, no dishes that need doing, no floors rolling with fur balls, no kiddos to be picked up from school and driven here to there, no math homework to help with (ugh), and no breakfast, lunch and dinners to make. I love these things in my life, but when it comes to writing?
Absolute solitude with no distractions would be ideal.

His answer to my hotel request was, as expected, a reminder that hotels can be expensive, save for the sleezy ones, and an offer to look after the kiddos while I went upstairs to sequester myself in our bedroom. 
Sigh. I love him for that, but… Another writer may understand why this doesn’t work. In the midst of wrestling with my protagonist’s decent into madness, my antagonist’s evil complexities, or my layers of Otherworld, there will be a point where my family will pop in to say hello, need to use our bathroom for some bizarre reason (we have three), ask me if I want food (go away, not now), or during a coffee run (more crucial than food, folks), ask me that dreaded question, “How’s the writing going?” 

Forgive me if I snarl and bite, or perhaps stare at you like you’ve spoken some foreign language that I can’t possibly understand, but, “Go away, I’m writing.”  I would be civil and answer you but I’ve pushed all my words and emotions through my fingertips and have none left to push through my lips.

So, I’m left with the possibility of grabbing an all-nighter while my husband is on a business trip, begging one of my pet-sitting clients to do a trade; free pet-sitting if I can spend the night at their house (which may or may not work), or shelling out $40 for a night of solitude at some sleezy motel. 

I’m thinking the sleezy motel may work just fine.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Blog to Blog

I had a great author spotlight interview on Morgen Bailey's blog awhile back. She's just started a new blog to revisit her author interviews.  Always a pleasure, Morgen!

Morgen's Author Interviews: Author interview no.647 with Clarissa Johal (revis...: Back in February 2013, I interviewed author Clarissa Johal for my mixed WordPress blog . I hope you enjoy it...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

What is a blog hop? It’s a way for readers to discover new authors! On this stop on the blog hop, you'll find a bit of info about me and one of my books-in-progress, plus links to three other authors for you to discover.

*Thanks to fellow author Peter Lukes for inviting me to participate in this event. Check out his blog for his Next Big Thing!

I've answered ten questions about my work-in-progress (giving you a sneak-peek). At the end, there are links to THREE other authors for you to discover who have answered the same questions.  Enjoy!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

1. What is the working title of your book?

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
A scene kept coming to me, over and over. I couldn't get it out of my head--I had to write it down or go crazy. Since I didn't want to go crazy...well. There you go.
I also kept envisioning a peripheral character that I felt was so unique, I had to make them "real" in one of my books. This just happened to be the book!

3. What genre does your book come under?
    Adult supernatural horror

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I don't like questions like that! I want people to have their own pictures in their heads as to what the characters would look like.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A woman who is struck by lightning is rescued by a mysterious stranger who offers her a gift...but one that comes with a price she is unsure of.

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
    I will be seeking a publisher once it's finished.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took 4 months to write the complete first draft. I've been editing for 6 months now and have it complete except for the ending. Those pesky endings! Every time I think I've completed the ending, my antagonist has something to say about it.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I'd like to think the story is unique, so I can't. If I was writing "something" like "something" I would need to go back to the drawing board because it wouldn't be my idea, it would be a rip-off of somebody else's.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Like I said, the book grew from the one scene I envisioned, which is the "what" or situation of the plot. As far as the "who" goes, I saw a painting awhile ago that I fell in love with. I knew someday I'd write and antagonist that looked similar to the person in the painting.

10. What else about your book might pique the readers interest?
      Follow this link to Lichtenberg figures. That's all I'm going to say.

My already published works can be purchased via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through Musa Publishing: 

A Story of the Supernatural for Adults

How far would you go to redeem yourself?

As a young girl, Lucinda was able to see spirits, a gift that didn't come without its problems. Now, a dedicated young veterinarian, she is committed to the idea that every life can be saved.
After a devastating accident, Lucinda tries to escape her past by moving to a small town. There, she meets a newcomer and feels an immediate connection with him. But there is another mysterious stranger to the small town, one that stirs within her a mixture of unease and desire. 
As Lucinda is drawn into a bitter tug-a-war from the forces around her, she is likewise pulled into a dangerous twist of past and present events. Forced to make difficult choices, she finds that the two men are locked in not only a battle for her life...but a battle for their salvation.
*Second place in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll 2012

A Young Adult Fantasy

What if there was an artifact that could see the past and change the future--would you use it? 

Three friends are accused of poisoning an Elder in their village. They escape to the mysterious region of Vel to search for the Guardian of a mythical artifact. If they find the artifact, it is reputed to have the powers to see the past and change the future, thus proving their innocence. However, if it falls into the wrong hands, the artifact could destroy the future of their world as they know it.
In the tradition of The Dark Crystal by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, PRADEE will pull the reader into an exciting, otherworldly adventure.
*Second round finalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award Contest 2012

Who's next on the NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP?

So glad you asked!
Below you will find three authors who will be joining me through their blogs next Wednesday, April 10th. Mark it on your calendars and bookmark them!
You will be one of the first to discover a new work in progress!
Happy reading!

Keith Yatsuhashi's blog: It's Kind of Electronic Book
Juli D. Revezzo's blog: Danger is a Fantasy