Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How much does category choice on Amazon matter in terms of book sales?

A fellow writer sent me the following question about self-publishing, and I wanted to share it and my answer with my blog readers:

How much do you think category choice on Amazon has mattered in terms of book sales? 

When it comes to self-publishing, category matters. For instance, all three books of my series  The Red Lantern Scandals has been in the top 100 list of Asian-American literature, and they were also briefly in the top 100 list of erotica titles. The books' placement in these lists helped me in regards to sales because being in a top 100 list helps you get noticed, and when it comes to book sales, one of the main battles is having readers find you amidst all the thousands of other titles out there.

The Red Lantern Scandals focuses on the lives of four millennial Chinese-American women in Los Angeles. While there is graphic sexual scenes in the books, the series could have easily been categorized under Women's Literature or even under the Thriller category because of a mystery element that is a thru line of the series. However, if I had chosen to categorize my books in those broad categories, I would have had to compete with mainstream titles that sell 100,000 to a million copies. If I went niche, I could make it on a top 100 list by selling much less than that and not having to compete with as many titles. That's why I  made the marketing decision to categorize my books as Asian-American erotica, and I believe it was that niche category decision that gained the books and myself attention.

One thing I should add to all writers, though, is to not miscategorize their work. That's worse than competing with traditionally published titles. For instance, if your book is marketed as African-American Christian fiction, but it turns out your work is not intended for Christian audiences, you will anger your audience and get bad reviews. Thus, although you should always try to be strategic, being honest with what you are selling matters the most.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2014 Emmy Winner Scorecard

The 2014 Emmys aired on August 25, 8 pm ET/PT on NBC, and I previously predicted who will win and who I thought should win. This is a recap of my predictions and my batting average.

Drama Series
“Breaking Bad”
“True Detective”
“House of Cards”
“Game of Thrones”
“Mad Men”
“Downton Abbey”
Who will win: "Breaking Bad" will win because this year was its last season, and it ended with a satisfying bang.
Who should win: "Breaking Bad" should win and will, bitch.
Who actually won: "Breaking Bad" #Flawless

Comedy Series
“Orange Is the New Black”
“Modern Family”
“Veep”
“Louie”
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Silicon Valley”
Who will win: "Orange Is the New Black" is one of the most buzzed about comedic programs out at the moment, and besides "Louie," it's the edgiest choice available.
Who should win: "Orange Is the New Black" is a series that takes chances, and the addition of Lorraine Toussant as the conniving Vee made brilliant television.
Who actually won: "Modern Family"--Damn, I should've guessed the Emmy voters would go for this broad crowd pleaser.

Lead Actor/Drama
Matthew McConaughey (“True Detective”)
Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)
Jeff Daniels (“Newsroom”)
John Hamm (“Mad Men”)
Woody Harrelson (“True Detective”)
Who will win: Matthew McConaughey because he seems to be winning everything lately.
Who should win: Kevin Spacey because he makes evil so fun to watch.
Who actually won: Bryan Cranston "Breaking Bad"--This was a tough category. I should've gone with my gut and just predicted "Breaking Bad" would win everything.

Lead Actress/Drama
Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)
Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”)
Kerry Washington (“Scandal”)
Claire Danes (“Homeland”)
Lizzy Caplan (“Masters of Sex”)
Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”)
Who will win: Robin Wright's Claire in "House of Cards" is one of the strongest, most complex female characters written in modern television.
Who should win: Robin Wright
Who actually won: Juliana Margulies "The Good Wife"--Although I love Juliana Margulies, I still love Robin Wright's portrayal of the power hungry Washington wife, Claire, more. Oh well. 

Lead Actor/Comedy
Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”)
Ricky Gervais (“Derek”)
Louis C.K. (“Louie”)
William H. Macy (“Shameless”)
Matt LeBlanc (“Episodes”)
Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”)
Who will win: Jim Parsons because people love "The Big Bang Theory" so much.
Who should win: Louis C.K. is a comedy mastermind.
Who actually won: Jim Parsons--Called it!

Lead Actress/Comedy
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”)
Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black”)
Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”)
Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”)
Melissa McCarthy (“Mike & Molly”)
Lena Dunham (“Girls”)
Who will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus is loved by all, and "Veep" is a satisfying star vehicle for her.
Who should win: Amy Poehler brings sass, sweetness and vulnerability to Leslie Knope, who could have been an annoying character if in the hands of a lesser actress.
Who actually won: Julia Louis-Dreyful--Called it!

Guest actor, drama series
Paul Giamatti, ("Downton Abbey")
Reg E. Cathey, ("House of Cards")
Robert Morse, ("Mad Men")
Beau Bridges, ("Masters of Sex")
Joe Morton, ("Scandal")
Dylan Baker, ("The Good Wife")
Who will win: Paul Giamatti because "Downton Abbey" is going to win something.
Who should win: Toss up for me.
Who actually won: Joe Morton for "Scandal." I had a hard time guessing on this one.

Guest actress, drama series
Dianna Rigg, ("Game of Thrones")
Kate Mara, ("House of Cards")
Allison Janney, ("Masters of Sex")
Kate Burton, ("Scandal")
Margo Martindale, ("The Americans")
Jane Fonda, ("The Newsroom")
Who will win: Allison Janney. I have no reason. I'm just guessing at this point.
Who should win: Toss up for me
Who actually won: Allison Janney--look at me go!

Guest actor, comedy series
Nathan Lane, ("Modern Family")
Steve Buscemi, ("Portlandia")
Jimmy Fallon, ("Saturday Night Live")
Louis C.K., ("Saturday Night Live")
Bob Newhart, ("The Big Bang Theory")
Gary Cole, ("Veep")
Who will win: Nathan Lane will win because he guest starred in such a crowd-pleasing show.
Who should win: Louis C.K. because everything he does, I love it!
Who actually won: Jimmy Fallon

Guest actress, comedy series
Uzo Aduba, ("Orange Is the New Black")
Laverne Cox, ("Orange Is the New Black")
Natasha Lyonne, ("Orange Is the New Black")
Tina Fey, ("Saturday Night Live")
Melissa McCarthy, ("Saturday Night Live")
Joan Cusack, ("Shameless")
Who will win: Uzo Aduba has taken what could have been a stereotypical character, and she has made her endearing.
Who should win:  "Orange Is the New Black's" new addition, Lorraine Toussant, who wasn't even nominated. Psh.
Who actually won: Woot! Crazy Eyes!

Variety Series
“The Colbert Report”
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”
“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
“Saturday Night Live”
“Real Time With Bill Maher”
Who will win: "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" has taken viral content to a new level.
Who should win: Jimmy Fallon seemed to be trying a lot of new things this season, and his creativity should be rewarded.
Who actually won: The Colbert Report

Monday, August 25, 2014

Roaring Nights: The L.A. Zoo isn't just for kids

The first time that I had ever attended the Los Angeles Zoo was in the summer of 2009. It was very hot that day, and I remember wandering around from exhibit to exhibit as various families would pass me by. I spent a few hours there and I had a fun time, but I didn't really see myself coming back in the future unless I was with children. However, my view of the L.A. Zoo expanded when I attended Roaring Nights on Friday August 22, 2014 with my friend Chad.

Chad and I arrived at the event around 8pm, and although the free zoo lot was full, we still found parking in a lot across the street. (For cyclists, there was a free bicycle valet service available so that was cool and eco-friendly.) There were plenty of people walking up to the zoo entrance with us, but the lines were short and moved quickly. This was impressive considering that Roaring Nights, a summer series that is held once a month from June to August, averages 3,000 attendees per event.

Chad and I got our tickets and then we had our IDs checked before we were allowed entrance. Unlike my day trip at the zoo five years ago, the evening event, Roaring Nights, was 18 and up, and the clientele was a mix of couples and groups of friends looking for a fun Friday night. According to Laura Stegman of the LA Zoo, "The Zoo has had summer "Music in the Zoo" evenings for many years, and "Roaring Nights" was introduced a few years ago to attract new 18+ audiences looking for nightlife in unexpected venues."
T.Lo and Chad heading into Roaring Nights at the L.A. Zoo (Photo courtesy of Instagram.)
ENTERTAINMENT
For the past three years, Roaring Nights has taken place during the summer once a month in June, July, and August. Each month, the event has different hip, musical guests. For August 2014's event, it hosted We Are Twin and DJ V Money. Previously, it hosted popular local band, Queen Caveat, a band that performs high energy, kickass shows. (Fun fact: I was in the music video for Queen Caveat's Breathe!)

Chad and I unfortunately never found where We Are Twin was performing, but we did enjoy DJ V Money who was set up by the carousel. He spun a lot of fun modern dance tunes such as Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda," which despite its dirtiness was very fitting for the setting. By the end of the night, Chad joined the dance party and almost twerked. It was wonderful. 

In addition to the dancing, zookeepers had tables set up where guests could see animals such as slithery snakes up close. Most of the other animals were turned in for the night, but the elephants were available to view. Because this event was all adults, many of whom were drinking, it was hilarious to witness their reactions. When I attended the zoo during the day, I heard a lot of wows from the kids, but at Roaring Nights, I just couldn't stop laughing at some drunk woman who nearly teared up saying, "The elephants! They're so beautiful. Why are they soooo beautiful?!?"**

**I mean, the elephants were beautiful, but I wasn't crying over them like they were Beyonce, but to each her own.

A zookeeper at a pop up animal display talks about snakes
Near closing time, Chad just wanted to dance.
 





PERSONAL SOUVENIRS 
Near the entrance, photographers were on hand to snap photos of guests. They took one serious picture and one picture of people pretending to look scared with their hands out so that they could photoshop an animal into their hands. Chad and I partook in this, and at the end of the night, we went to the photography stand to preview our pictures and they were really cute. We hesitated on buying and were told we could check out the photos later online. I've checked the website, and unfortunately Chad and I are nowhere to be found. Bummer. Luckily, there was another photo opportunity, and this one was free. The Zoo had a background set up along with random props, which included cut outs of animals and a fake Instagram border.

One of my favorite aspects of Roaring Nights was a painting station called “Animal Artistry Paint Party.” The station was near the front of the zoo, so people could paint when they came in and when they left, they could pick up their dried work. Canvasses and paint were free, and afterwards, everyone was able to hang their art work on a clothesline to dry. It was a smart idea, and it was a fun personal souvenir to take home at the end of the night.

Guests enjoy free painting at Roaring Nights
A variety of artistic expressions including an homage to bears

FOOD AND BOOZE
At different areas of the zoo, there were different bars and food trucks set up. Some of the food trucks included Baby’s Badass Burgers, Coolhaus, Lobsta Truck, Potato Tornado, Ragin Cajun,  and The Grilled Cheese Truck.  Like at most food truck events, the lines were long. Chad and I got Lobsta Truck, which was delicious, but we spent over thirty minutes waiting in line. Considering that the event lasted from 7pm to 10pm, waiting in food truck lines took up a large chunk of our time, but this seems to be a Los Angeles norm so we were used to it. At least there was never a long wait time for the bar service. 
Placing an order at the Lobtsa truck (All photos by T.Lo)
Diners in front of a food truck
OVERALL
The L.A. Zoo's Roaring Nights is a well organized, classy event that's a great option for adults wanting to have an entertaining evening. Considering how many people attend Roaring Nights, it never felt crowded being there because the event planners were smart about where to place each station. The entertainment, food, and drink options were top notch, and every employee Chad and I encountered was friendly and seemed to take pride in the zoo. The only critique Chad and I had was that we wished that the event went on at least until midnight, but that may lead to a giant zoo rave so maybe nevermind... (Although that would be really fun. Just saying.)

Although August's Roaring Nights was the last one of this year, the Zoo holds other evening events tied to holidays. For instance, for Halloween, they will hold an event on October 25, 2014 called Night of the Living Zoo, and for Valentine's Day, they will host Sex and the City Zoo. Additionally, they will debut this year a night time wonderland of festive lights called Zoo Lights, which will open nightly (except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) from Friday, November 28, 2014 to Sunday January 4, 2015. For more information about the LA Zoo night time events, check out their website: http://lazoo.org/

Chad paints a masterpiece

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to make it in Hollywood as a writer, etiquette tips and advice from MC Foley

10,000 Likes is on Amazon
MC Foley, author of one of my favorite indie books, The Cure, has a new book out on Amazon called 10,000 Likes. It's a juicy portrayal of a wild life in West Hollywood, California; and it's a story told in a non-traditional way through social media posts. 10,000 Likes is available on Amazon.

MC gave a great interview almost a year ago for The Daily T.Lo, and she talked about blogging and breaking down the misconceptions of what it means to be a writer. For those who didn't read the interview, MC is not only an accomplished author but she is also the coordinator of the Writers Guild of America's Showrunner's Program (a major Hollywood TV writers program.) She's an expert at navigating the world or professional scriptwriting, and in the previous blog post "MC Foley wants you to get off the couch!" she provided some tips on how to make it in Hollywood. Here's a reprint of her tips from that interview:

HOW TO MAKE IT IN HOLLYWOOD, ETIQUETTE TIPS AND ADVICE FROM MC FOLEY:
  1. Do NOT ask people for favors or to give you things when you’ve just met them. That is about one of the worst things you could ever do, and yet I see it happen all the time. Why in the hell should this person tell you how to get an agent or read your script when you’ve just met them?? Do you realize how disrespectful that is? Disrespectful of this person’s time as well as this person’s life work. For them to be at the level they’re at they have definitely invested YEARS of SWEAT and hard, hard work. For you to just ask for things makes you look either ignorant, selfish, desperate, childish or just plain stupid. I’m ranting here because I’ve seen it happen SO OFTEN. It boggles my mind. You need to build relationships with people on a human level – and not in an insincere way. People are smart out here, they can sniff that bullshit out pretty quickly. 
  2. Talk less and listen more. 
  3. Write a lot of material. You need an arsenal. 
  4. Take critiques. You’re new. And even if you’re not new, there is always something to learn. If anyone gives you notes on your writing, just listen to the note and consider it later. Do NOT get defensive. Especially if the person read your shit for free. That’s arrogant and you just burned the fuck out of a bridge. 
  5. Be prepared to work your motherf^&*(ng ass off. 
  6. Be prepared to hammer away at this for years without a break through. 
  7. Considering that last point… pay attention to every tiny, positive thing and write it down. “Had a great conversation with so-and-so.” “Read a great script.” “Went to a cool screening Q&A.” “Learned more about post production today.” Be proud of your gradual, daily accomplishments because if you really stay focused and driven and humble and open, you will find that you are making progress each and every day.
You can connect with MC on Instagram or Facebook, and don't forget to check out her book, 10,000 Likes!

    Saturday, August 23, 2014

    Eddy Lee's artwork will take your breath away

    The artist Eddy Lee
    On August 16, 2014, I attended the 626 Night Market in Arcadia, California; and I stumbled upon the booth of artist Eddy Lee, who currently lives in Los Angeles but who originally hailed from Washington state. I was blown away by the beautiful, effervescent and dreamlike images of women he created, and I wanted to learn more about him.

    Lee lists his artistic influences as David Choe, Audrey Kawasaki, Basquiat, Egon Schiele, Jim Lee, Michelangelo, Carravaggio, and Bernini. After receiving a BFA in studio art from the University of Washington with an Art History minor, he had a brief stint working in graphic design doing band posters and various projects for the indie music scene up in Seattle. He later made his way to Los Angeles. During the summer, he sets up on the Venice Beach boardwalk as well as various events in Southern California such as the 626 Nightmarket and DTLA artwalk. In the fall and winter, he usually paints in the studio working on commission requests or ambitious large projects.


    Courtesy of Eddy Lee's Instagram
    In addition to setting up his work at public arenas, Lee also showcases his art on Instagram. "I feel the best possible way you can help yourself as an artist is simply take that risk and put yourself out there" Lee said. "Artists are the most critical of their own work. By putting yourself out there you learn from the feedback, if what you're doing is moving in the right direction or not. It's scary at first because you are opening yourself up to be criticized and judged, but all that is crucial and necessary for growth. It also helps you interact with people as most creative types tend to be socially awkward. If a gallery takes you in, awesome. If not, find an event, an art fair, artwalk, sidewalk, anywhere you can find. Just get the work your work out there."
    Courtesy of Eddy Lee's Instagram
    Lee is fortunate enough to be a full time artist, and with this blessing also comes the responsibility of constantly working  instead of just waiting around for inspiration.

    "Being a full-time fine artist doesn't afford me the luxury of sitting around waiting for inspiration," Lee said. "I find inspiration from simply getting up each day and doing the work, even when I'm not feeling anything creatively. Some of my most gratifying works were done on days where I didn't want to paint. In that sense you do have to treat it like a 9 to 5 job, it requires that kind of discipline. It does take a lot of work but at the end of the day it's a charmed life, I do what I'm most passionate about for a living and I do it on my own terms."
    Courtesy of Eddy Lee's Instagram
    Lee's next project is work that he will showcase at the upcoming 626 Night Market which will occur in September. He will also be showing at a Downtown Los Angeles event called "Pancakes and Booze."

    "I'm always up for helping other aspiring artists in whatever way I can," Lee said. For anyone who would like to reach him in regards to art work or advice, he can be reached at eddyleeart@gmail.com

    For more information, check out Eddy's website, Instagram, and Facebook