Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Your Greatest Critic is your Market!

At Gamers Gauntlet for Convention
Not everyone is going to like your particular cup of tea.  You may come up with an idea that’s only in a specific genre or in a small age group or just for men or women.   Maybe it’s a kid’s book, maybe it’s for single men.  There’s nothing wrong with having a target market.  You might create a very broad book that can stretch across the aisle.  However, you still need to have a market audience in mind.  Why?  Because, that’s who you need to market to when you’re trying to get your work out and create a profit for yourself.

So when you get bad news or negative reviews from someone who isn’t in your market, don’t fret.  It doesn’t mean that their opinion isn’t valid, but at the end of the day, it means a whole lot less than the people who are actually going to buy it and read it.

I wrote a middle grade children’s novel (not yet published, hopefully next year!).  I really liked the story and my younger sister really liked it too.  I tried getting my older sister into it and she just couldn’t connect to the young children on their journey and admittedly stated that if they were older, she would be more accepting of it.  It wasn’t the story, but rather their age.  I was a little bummed out about this, until my youngest sister said, “Katrina is twice the target age group.”  When I told Katrina this, she was horrified at how old Tina had made her sound, but it put me back in reality.  She also felt weird watching something like Avatar: The Last Airbender when Aang had a crush on Katara and he was no more than eleven or twelve years old.   So essentially, she just didn’t want to read about kid drama or watch it.  If it was young adult, that would be different. 

I’m not saying completely disregard everyone who isn’t in your market.  For children’s books, you do have to consider the adults because they are the ones who are going to buy the book.  Is it too dark?  Is there enough educational value in it?  Are you teaching the kids the right lessons?  If a parent feels that a book is safe, they’ll give it a shot.  Some parents want to read with their kids and be entertained, but most parents that pick out books for their kids want to make sure that their kids can read it and that it’ll be a story that their child will actually want to get through.

I think the only way to really know how good your book is and if it’ll speak to your market is to try it out.  Companies run tests on selected groups before releasing products out to the public.  Nobody really goes in blind.  Test your ideas out on people.  Talk to somebody as you’re writing your project and before you get it published.  Then when it’s all said and done, go somewhere to find your market and see how they react.  If you get picked up by a big publishing company that can do all this stuff, that’s great.  But if you’re on your own, it takes a lot of work to make your dream a reality!

I’ve been to several conventions that had a “Kids Day” or free admission for children.  Parents would walk by and see a huge and colorful Superkid poster.  Even if they didn’t stop or buy the book, the parents and children would go, “Look!  It’s Superkid!”  This was gratifying to me, because a couple of my siblings didn’t care for my cover.  All of the reactions I got from consumers really affirmed my decision.  Everyone I talked to really liked the concept and was intrigued by the characters.

I went to an event recently and an eight-year-old boy came up to my table and looked at the Superkid book for a while.  I asked him if he would like to know a little bit about it, and he nodded his head.  I asked him if he liked to read, and he said, “All the time!”  He talked about how he really liked the concept and when I told him the price, he replied, “Hmm.  It’s really affordable too!”  I got a real kick out of that. 

The best place I really gauged how well Superkid was being accepted was at a school.  The students were excited by the cover alone and pointed to characters that they wanted to be.   When I finished one chapter, they begged for me to read another.  I read to K-5th graders.  Everyone really liked it, but the older the kids got, the more they laughed and appreciated the wit in the book. 

The best way to understand what works is to get out there and test your market.  If you’ve got the next Twilight series, maybe you should visit a Twilight Convention.  Those fans who pay good money to meet minor actors in the film will judge whether or not your book speaks to them or not.  If it’s a religious book, try a religious convention or bookstore.  Get engaged and interact with your fans.  If you don’t have any, you need to make some!  Those connections are everything.

Joss Whedon always had to fight to keep his television series running.  Buffy, Angel, and Firefly never had Glee or CSI ratings.  However, they have fans that kept the show alive and made it into a cult classic.  Maybe critics may not think you’ve created a masterpiece.  Maybe you can’t get your foot through the door by publishing a book traditionally.  That doesn’t matter as long as you have an army of people dedicated to your work and will spread the word.

Harry Potter was published because the publisher reading J.K. Rowling’s manuscript had a child there that read it and demanded to read the rest of the pages.  Rowling had rejection after rejection before that.  Never underestimate the power of your market! 

Get the reception that you need to understand whether or not you’ve really got something.  After you’ve got that, learn how to utilize and how to build on that.
Remember, your greatest critic is your market!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How Adventure Time Influenced my Writing

Before Adventure Time was the mega success for Cartoon Network, it was once a short being held hostage by Nickelodeon.  When I went to College for Creative Studies, Penn Ward came and lectured us for a day about his cult cartoon that was just a short looming on the internet at the time.  Nickelodeon thought the idea was much too weird to be a full on cartoon, but they wouldn’t let Penn do anything with it.  However, it still had a huge following on the internet.  Penn even admired his inappropriate fanart (which kind of crept me out, to be honest).

I had never seen the short, but they showed it to us and I thought it was funny.  To be honest, the show had to grow on me.  My youngest sister is obsessed with Adventure Time and she would DVR the episodes and she watched them multiple times, so I was watching her watch them.  Now I’m an official fan that's excited to see new episodes, but she envies the fact that I’ve actually met Penn.
But I took some important information away from that time with Penn that I think would mean a lot to authors out there, so allow me to share the words of wisdom that Penn shared to all of us: “Never pitch your baby.” 
If you think that Penn Ward spent so much time writing out a storyboard for Nick for Adventure Time, you are wrong.  It was something he thought up in a couple of minutes and it ended up catching fire.  Now everyone isn’t going to be picked up by such a lackadaisical attitude, but I still appreciated his reasoning behind not pitching something important to him.
When you have something that you work on and you dedicate so much of your heart to, it’s your baby.  You have a hard time accepting other’s people’s advice on how to raise it and let it grow.  You’re very protective and very defensive about it.  And in the case of whether it’s a cartoon or a show that you have to pitch to a big network, you have to make a lot of compromises and you might have to kind of sell out to make a living.
Jhonen Vasquez, the creator of Invader Zim, has created a lot of things and even though there are people who love his cult phenomenon, he doesn’t exactly freak out about the greatness to the extent that people like me do.  It's nice to him that people walk around with Gir stuff, but it doesn't give him butterflies.  After being at his panel at C2E2 2012, I learned that he’s planning on making new cartoons, but he wants to make them without the pressure and the supervision of a big network.  He wants to let his creativity flow on his own terms.  He talked about needing to raise the money and the fans cheered and claimed that they would give to him if he started a Kickstarter.  As a matter of fact, someone shouted, “Shut up and take my money already!”
Sometimes you get sick of sacrificing your own creativity to appease someone else.  And the truth is there are probably people out there as sick and twisted as you that will appreciate what you do.  Sometimes, you do need a different perspective to reel you in or to bounce ideas off of.  That’s why a lot of writers have partners.  But sometimes the experts don’t always get it right.  Stephanie Meyer who wrote Twilight had a whirlwind of success relatively quickly, but she still got rejection letters and some of them weren’t so nice!  J.K. Rowling pretty much only got her big break because her publisher had a child that read some of the pages of the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone manuscript and demanded to have the rest. 
I started writing my first novel, Superficial, soon after meeting Penn and I adored it to death!  It’s not the best thing I’ve written, but I believe it’ll be a huge franchise and I’ve made a lot of great and memorable characters.  I tried submitting it to literary agents and even though I got positive feedback, it didn’t get picked up.  I literally had agents that said they knew I would be successful with this project, but it just wasn’t for them.  I could respect that they didn’t want to take on something they didn’t have their heart and soul in, but it also baffled me that they rejected the chance to make what they thought to be a lot of money.
So I started writing more novels.  I have a couple finished in my Superficial series, but I started different series that I also adore.  Now am I as attached to other projects as I am to Superficial?  No.  Some stories that I’ve written are more strategically written to get me where I need to be.  Most are just spawned out of my creativity and what I feel like writing.  But I’ve learned to not be so touchy and I can experiment and test out other stories that I’ve written.
Now I’m at the point in my life where I’ve taken a leap of faith and I’ve done the insane thing of self-publishing a book—two, actually.  Superkid and Sunrise Sunset are now available for sale and I’m extremely proud of them both!  Will Superficial be joining them any time soon?  Well, that depends. 

My goal is to have a strong base before I launch what is so near and dear to my heart.  Be honest with yourself.  If your work failed, would you be okay with that?  I personally think it would break my heart.  So if you can’t be detached enough to a project, it’s best to work on another one.  Maybe you’ll never publish your favorite piece.  Maybe it’ll always be stored up on your hard drive to read when you feel the need to pat yourself on the back.  Maybe some people might think you’re a coward for doing that, but sometimes you have to protect your heart.  And there might come a day when you can let the baby roam free into the world after you and the baby are prepared. 

Mr. Vasquez has fans that will follow him, give him money, and that will support his dream and creativity.  I’m sure whatever Penn Ward’s “baby” is can see the light of day when he feels it’s time.  He's got enough fans.  In the meantime, Penn has had a ridiculous amount of success with something that he created in a manner of minutes. 

I think you should protect your baby and maybe even shelter it if you have to.  Refine it and make sure it’s how it needs to be.  Set realistic goals and make sure you have proper plans.  I’m learning the value of taking your time with a project and I’ll take all the time I need to in order to make Superficial a smash hit.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Hi everyone!  I've decided to start this new blog in order to follow my journey as I write my novels, songs, create art, travel, and so on.  I have a lot of ambitions and I'm glad that there are people who believe in me and in what I'm trying to do.

As some of you might know, Ninja Dust is an ingredient that God used to create Superkid in my book, Superkid.  I wanted to start a production/publishing company with that name, because it is something unique and something specific to my life and my fans.  Until I am able to get that off the ground, I'm gonna start with this blog.

I usually create my own websites, but I didn't quite have the time. was something I created from scratch, but so many other people use blog websites to get what they need done that I decided to cave to the convenience of it all. 

I'm gonna post some things about the books I have published, books I've completed, and things I'm writing.  As far as my music goes, I'm gonna go ahead and just be ambitious and put some stuff out there and see how it goes.  I don't have the resources right now to produce a lot of finished productions, so sometimes it'll just be vocals until I can get music together.  I'll also put out some covers. 

Thank you for following me on my journey and I'll try to make ya'll proud!