How to Sell Diverse Books

With the Oscar nominations and in our mystery genre, the Edgar announcement to come in a few days, observers are fixated on awards. But the older I get in the publishing industry, the more I’ve become fixated on sales. There have been campaigns notably in the children’s literature to publish diverse books. Admittedly, if there are no diverse books to be had, those stories cannot reach readers. But releasing them is half the battle. How do you sell them? As I cut my professional teeth at a Japanese American newspaper which catered to a niche audience, I’ve learned that you cannot merely use tactics employed by the mainstream and think that they will work for every book or movie, especially a diverse one. Of course, you need mainstream buy-in for a creative work to be a commercial success. But for a book with American non-white characters to truly have legs, I believe that you need to create different “interest tornados,” starting with the very community you write about. For my debut Mas Arai mystery, I advocated that my publisher, Random House, place an ad in the newspaper that I worked at, The Rafu Shimpo. They did so, securing a quarter-page space that probably would have gotten a few inches in the Los Angeles Times for the same price. I gave the same paper a first-chapter sneak-peek in its holiday issue and held my launch party at the Japanese American National Museum instead of a bookstore. A friend who used to … Read more

Chicago Historical Mystery to Be Published by Soho Crime in 2021

The book contract is signed, so the official announcement is out: CLARK & DIVISION, my historical mystery set in 1944 Chicago, will be released by Soho Crime next year. Thrilled! I’m still working on the novel, so stay tuned for posts regarding research. If you subscribed to my newsletter, you have more details. Just go to my website’s home page and click on “Join E-mail List.”

Weight Loss and Writing

Writing is not conducive to weight loss. In fact, being such a sedentary active, often fueled by one too many jalapeƱo potato chip, See’s molasses chip or bottle of sweet tea, it can lead to the weight gain. I’ve always been an active person–in the past, I’ve run in half-marathons or played in basketball leagues. And now with Tulo, the hyper Jack Russell, regular dog walks as well as strength training have become my regular routine. But that hasn’t prevented extra pounds from accumulating around my middle. I called it natural middle-age weight gain and just acquired more tunics from Japan. I was content with my roly-poly state, but there’s something in my family history that I can’t ignore. We’ve been hit hard by the “C” word, cancer. My three grandparents had cancer; my father, stomach; and my mother, ovarian. Mom has beat the odds and is currently as healthy as she can be at 83 years of age. The rest succumbed to the disease. My gynecologist has told me that losing just 10 pounds will decrease my chances of getting several different kinds of cancer. That was finally the incentive that I needed. I reluctantly joined the Kaiser Healthy Balance program, which is similar to Weight Watchers in that there are weekly weigh-ins and group discussions. I really didn’t want to participate in these one-and-a-half hour sessions, once a week for 16 weeks. (I’m currently in week seven.) Instead of being a discouraging experience, I discovered a group of … Read more

Reassessing Crap

In one of my favorite writing books, BIRD BY BIRD, Anne Lamott discusses writing “shitty first drafts.” It’s a necessary evil for writers and sometimes I forget to extend that truth to my own work. On Christmas of all days, I printed out my work in progress, got comfortable on our Costco couch and started reading. By the end of my draft I determined that it was crap. I couldn’t believe that I had been so excited about what I had been creating–the foundation seemed strong, the structure dependable, the characters lively and authentic. Then why did my story seem to fall apart in certain key moments? I took a break, ate Chinese food with the extended family while also playing some rounds of Switch video games with my 9-year-old nephew (soundly beaten every time) and then returned back to the manuscript. I figured out the err of my ways. First of all, with the holiday busyness, I had failed to totally immerse myself in my writing. I didn’t take deep dives and fail to stay underwater. Instead I was dogpaddling in shallow waters so that I could keep an eye on what was happening around me. As a result, I had just taken sections that I had written earlier in my outline and stuck them where I thought they had belonged. As a result, it was not seamless. The stitching was crude and the fabric totally wrong. Why was I having my characters say things that they never would … Read more