Attention Strangers: Please Give Me Your Money.

salesmanlarsPictured: a face you can trust

According to this New York Times article, the average American knows 600 people.

Let’s say for the purpose of argument that the New York Times figure is accurate, and that my social network is “average”. Let’s also say that 10% of those 600 people buy my books. (I’m guessing that’s a pretty optimistic estimate if anything, but again, just for the purpose of argument.)

So that’s 60 sales I would make from people that I know personally.

Needless to say, I have to sell a lot more books than that to make publishing them economically viable. That means the majority of my sales need to come from complete and total strangers who have no emotional investment in me or my personal success or failure.

I guess that’s obvious if you think about it, but I find it’s helpful to keep in mind when I’m thinking about the best way to promote my work.

Take these two facts which I might use for promotional purposes:
1) I was covered in the Wall Street Journal.
2) My graphic novel Tonoharu has been translated into French and Spanish.

If I’m talking to my mom, or a friend, or even an acquaintance, those two facts by themselves would probably be of (at least mild) interest.

But if it’s someone that’s never met me, this “news” suddenly becomes a lot less interesting:
1) [A complete stranger] was covered in the Wall Street Journal.
2) [Some book you’ve never heard of] has been translated into French and Spanish.

Like, who cares? Lots of people you don’t know are covered in the WSJ. Lots of books you’ve never heard of are translated into other languages. If you don’t have any connection to me, these facts (by themselves) are unlikely to be of any interest.

If my promotional materials read like a family newsletter detailing my middling achievements, it’s unlikely to interest anyone who doesn’t know me personally. And since my potential audience is mostly comprised of strangers, it’s important to find creative ways to capture their attention. Every promotional effort needs some kind of hook.

Which brings me to the YouTube book trailer I’m working on to coincide with Tonoharu: Part Three’s release this November.

Now, I could title the video Official Book Trailer for Tonoharu: Part Three and show a montage of artwork over a royalty-free soundtrack. That would be a perfectly acceptable route… but also a route that would be unlikely to get many views outside of friends and family.

Because again, if I put myself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t know or care about me or my work, that video may as well be called: Official Book Trailer for [some book you’ve never heard of]. Probably not something they click on (or even see a link for in the first place for that matter).

So instead, I’ve decided to take a completely different approach. So different that it’s not really even a book trailer anymore (at least not in the traditional sense).

The video is centered around why Tonoharu took so absurdly long to complete, and the lessons I learned that I intend to apply to future artistic projects. I’ll probably call it something click-bait-y like:
4 Time Management Tips (from someone who spent 13 years on a graphic novel).

I dunno, maybe it still won’t get many views, but I figure it’s a lot more intriguing than generic book trailer #8736472. It’s been a lot more fun to work on, in any event. Anyway, I’m about 25% done with it, and will link to it once it’s done.

Okay, I’ve been rambling on about marketing for long enough. See you next Monday!

“Tonoharu: Part Three” Art Preview Summer 2016

Full-size version of this picture available at the link below!

As promised, this week I wanted to put up something Tonoharu: Part Three related. When I checked back on previous blog entries, I realized that the only art preview I did went up almost two years ago; yeesh! So I figured it was high time to put up another one.

To save my poor old website the bandwidth, I’ll just post the artwork on Facebook:

That album also includes the images I put up in 2014, so check that out if you missed it the first time.

I’ll post one more art preview around the time the book is released in November. I saved the best for last, so check back!

Next Monday’s entry will also be Tonoharu related (I think). See you then!

Update: “Tonoharu: Part Three” still coming out this year, I’m still alive

tono3covers2Pictured: Advance copies of Tonoharu: Part Three

The last blog entry I wrote prior to this one concluded with me writing “expect more frequent blog updates in the future”.

That entry was written almost nine months ago.

So yeah, it’d be an understatement to say that I’ve been truly awful at updating this blog. This is particularly bad considering the third and final book of Tonoharu is releasing in just a few short weeks. But oh well. Only thing to do now is try to be better about it from here on out.

So rather than vaguely promise “more frequent” blog entries, lemme be a bit more concrete. I’m going to post a new blog entry every Monday morning until at least the end of the year, and hopefully beyond that. Some of these entries will be substantial, others might just be a link to a YouTube video or something. But there will, in the very least, be something.

I’ll save details for future entries, but to just briefly recap on what’s happened in the past nine months:

Tonoharu: Part Three will be released in November of this year.
The books have already been printed and bound, and at the time of this writing are on the boat over from South Korea. I might have copies available for sale through my website as early as October. Will update on the blog when I know more. (Really!)

I’ve moved back to the United States as of a couple weeks ago.
People who read the blog back when I actually updated it may recall I was living in Kyoto last time I wrote. My work contract has concluded, and so I’m back in the States (for now). I’ll write more about my feelings about this and what I plan to do from here on out in future blog entries. (I swear!)

I’ve started post-Tonoharu artistic work, and have 95% completed a short test project.
Having worked on the same series for so dang long, I was anxious to try something completely different. So different in fact that I felt like it was a good idea to try out a short test project or two before I tackle anything significant. I’ve already almost finished one of these test projects, and hope to release it by the end of the year. Again, future blog updates will cover this in complete detail. (No kidding!)

My apologies to anyone who came to this blog over the past few months looking for new entries; I’m sure the vast majority of people gave up long ago, but like I say, there will be frequent updates for the next few months or so.

Anyway, see you back next Monday!

“Tonoharu: Part Three” FINAL Progress Report


As the “99%” on the progress bar above indicates, there is still a tiny teeny bit of work left before I can call Tonoharu: Part Three unequivocally, 100% complete. I should be able to complete what remains over the course of an afternoon. The only reason I haven’t done so already is because it involves details I need from my book printer, and I won’t have that information until right before I go to press.

But basically, Tonoharu: Part Three (and by extension, the entire Tonoharu story) is now DONE.

As you might imagine, reaching this milestone has put me in a contemplative mood.

I can’t remember exactly when I started Tonoharu (which is telling in and of itself), but I believe it was late 2003. This means I’ve been working on it for like TWELVE YEARS. I took breaks here and there due to illness, injury, and burnout, but those breaks were few and far between. Even accounting for those hiatuses, I think it’d be conservative to estimate that I put a good decade of almost daily work into Tonoharu.

So after all that, how does it feel to be done with it? In a word, weird.

It’d be like if someone came up to you and said, “Okay, you’ve been brushing your teeth for years and years now… congratulations! You have now completed the task of toothbrushing. You don’t have to do it anymore.”

Brushing your teeth is just something you do everyday, forever. It’s not a task that you complete. I’ve been working on Tonoharu for so long, it’s started to feel like that. A part of the daily routine. To think that I’ve completed this thing that I’ve devoted more than half of my adult life to is hard to wrap my brain around.

As such, I’ll leave it at that for now. I’ll write a more detailed postmortem about Tonoharu in a few months, after I have a bit more perspective.

But for now, I’ll reaffirm that we’re still totally on track to meet the previously announced October 2016 release date for Tonoharu: Part Three. (I wrote about why I set the release date so far out in this blog entry, if you’re curious.)

With the release of the book now less than a year away, I’m hoping to start ramping up my marketing efforts again. So expect more frequent* blog updates in the future as well.

*(Admittedly, it’d be hard to update less frequently, but…)

“Tonoharu: Part Three” Progress Report (Spring 2015)


Just today I passed a significant milestone: I finished the artwork for the last page of Tonoharu: Part Three! The whole book (and by extension, the whole series) now exists in a complete, readable state. Hurray!

Only two main things remain before the book is 100%, unequivocally done:

1) The Dust Jacket
This includes the front and back cover, the spine, and the inside front and back flaps. It will follow the same basic template as the first two Tonoharu hardcovers, so there won’t be much design work to worry about, but the front cover artwork will be as intricate as ever, so I expect will take a few weeks (a couple months?) to finish.

2) Post-Production Work
2a) Housingkeeping
At the bare minimum, I need to go through all the panels and fix any spelling mistakes, tweak the text layout and word balloons, and confirm that all the files are set up correctly to go to press. Completing these minimal edits shouldn’t take too long on a per-panel basis: I’d estimate less than two minutes per panel. But since the book contains over 700 panels, (and since I can only work on it on evenings and weekends since I have a day job) it’ll probably take a few weeks to finish.
2b) Artwork Edits
What’s more of a wild card is the artwork edits. The entire book now exists in an acceptable state, but I’d still like to go back and fix some of the artwork that I’m not happy with. Most of these edits should be minor, like redrawing a character’s face and using Photoshop to Frankenstein it into the preexisting art. In rare cases, I might redraw panels from scratch, or add a couple of pages here or there to help with the flow of the story.
For Tonoharu: Part One, I did artwork edits to pretty much 100% of the panels (in some cases, even editing them two or three times). For Tonoharu: Part Two, I only did it for about half of the panels. I’d like to continue the downward trend with the third book, and only do art edits to 25% of the book (or less; we’ll see how much I can keep my perfectionism in check).

Between the housekeeping stuff and the artwork edits, I expect the post-production work to take a few months to complete.

So to sum up: I estimate the remaining work on Tonoharu: Part Three should take about half a year to complete. This means I should be totally done with it right around the end of the year.

This still puts me on track for my planned October 2016 release. (For details as to why I plan to release it ten months after my anticipated completion date, see this entry.)

I’ll probably also unveil the cover for Tonoharu: Part Three sometime this summer, and then will put up the final Tonoharu: Part Three progress report a few months after that. So stay tuned!

Temping Fate: My Prediction for Tonoharu: Part Three’s Release Date

 I’m too lazy to create a header image for this blog entry so here’s a barking dog from Sazae-san

Just this week, I finished the last page of the appendices for Tonoharu: Part Three, leaving only the epilogue left to draw. Needless to say, I’m excited to pass this milestone. As I do whenever I finish a page, I tweeted about it. The standard format for these update tweets looks like this:

Tonoharu Part 3, page 159 is done!
Approx. 22 pages left to go!

I always feel a little sheepish tweeting these countdown micro-updates, because I’m afraid they’re a bit misleading. At the rate I’m going, all of the pages should be “done” by this summer. One could (reasonably) assume that the book would come out soon after that. But unfortunately, that’s not going to be the case.

So when do I expect the book to come out? We’ll see if my hubris bites me in the ass, but I feel confident projecting that Tonoharu: Part Three will be released in October…2016.

So why, if I expect to be “done” with all the pages by Summer 2015, do I project a release more than a year after that?

There are a couple of reasons. Continue reading Temping Fate: My Prediction for Tonoharu: Part Three’s Release Date