Thursday, December 15, 2016

Barry Lyga - An Author Interview at the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on New York Times bestselling author Barry Lyga. He writes Young Adult and Comics & Graphic Novels.

Author Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels, Young Adult

Website: Barry Lyga
Author's Blog: The Blog
Twitter: @barrylyga
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Amazon Author Profile

Author Description:
Called a "YA rebel-author" by Kirkus Reviews, Barry Lyga has published twelve novels in various genres in his seven-year career, including the New York Times bestselling I Hunt Killers and his newest, Unsoul'd (for adults). His books have been or are slated to be published in nine different languages in North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

After graduating from Yale with a degree in English, Lyga worked in the comic book industry before quitting to pursue his lifelong love of writing. In 2006, his first young adult novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, was published to rave reviews, including starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal. Publisher's Weekly named Lyga a "Flying Start" in December 2006 on the strength of the debut.

His second young adult novel, Boy Toy, received starred reviews in SLJ, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus. VOYA gave it its highest critical rating, and the Chicago Tribune called it " astounding portrayal of what it is like to be the young male victim." His third novel, Hero-Type, according to VOYA "proves that there are still fresh ideas and new, interesting story lines to be explored in young adult literature."

Since then, he has also written Goth Girl Rising (the sequel to his first novel), as well as the Archvillain series for middle-grade readers and the graphic novel Mangaman (with art by Colleen Doran).

His latest series is I Hunt Killers, called by the LA Times "one of the more daring concepts in recent years by a young-adult author" and an "extreme and utterly alluring narrative about nature versus nurture." The first book landed on both the New York Times and USAToday bestsellers lists, and the series has been optioned for television by Warner Bros./Silver Pictures.

Lyga lives and writes in New York City. His comic book collection is a lot smaller than it used to be, but is still way too big.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Next up is BANG, which hits stores in April 2017. It’s the story of Sebastian Cody. When he was only four years old, Sebastian was playing with his father’s gun and accidentally shot and killed his 4-month-old baby sister. Now it’s ten years later and Sebastian is still dealing with the ramifications of what he did. How do you recover from a mistake you made when you were too young even to know what a mistake was?

You have a good following on twitter. Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How did you build your following in your niche? How much has it changed your book launch process?

Man, I hate to whiff on a question so early in an interview, but the answer to pretty much all of this is “I don’t know.” Sales on my books follow no pattern that I can discern — pre- and post-social media, the sales are all over the map. Some books do well; some don’t. I can’t point to an instance where something happened on social media and I saw an immediate impact on sales. As to how I built my following — no clue! I was on Twitter relatively early and got lucky that Buzzfeed listed me as one of the authors to follow. That certainly boosted my numbers early on. But I never set out to do anything specific to beef up my numbers on social media. I just do what I like and if it happens, it happens.

Lastly: Book launch process. I try to coordinate with my publisher to do whatever makes sense. I feel as though if you’re following me on social media, you probably know about my book already, but a launch reminder never hurts!

Many of your novels have been converted into audio books. What has been the impact on your regular sales? Has the audio books gained a new audience for you?

It’s tough to gauge impact on sales because I can’t do an A/B test where I see, for example, how I HUNT KILLERS sold without an audiobook being available. I do know anecdotally, however, that many people have discovered my work via the audiobooks. A lot of people tell me they first found me in audio, and I’ve been lucky to have some great narrators for those books of mine that have been produced as audiobooks.

You have written several short stories. Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty’s one of your styles of writing or are they created to give readers a sample of your work?

I don’t have any data that indicates that the existence of the short stories impacts sales of the novels, but that’s not the sort of data I would be tracking anyway. I wrote the stories not to impact sales, but rather because they were bits and pieces of the KILLERS universe that didn’t fit into the novels. I still wanted people to be able to get those bits and pieces, though, so I did the shorts.

Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do you sort of play it by ear?

I have a set schedule, but given all of the stuff you listed, I have to be flexible with it. The writing takes precedence over everything but my family, so if, say, my daughter is sick one day, well I’m not getting any writing done.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

Other than some contests I ran online, I’ve never given a book away for free. My publishers have often arranged ebook sales, and I can say that those are definitely successful in at least one way — they certainly (temporarily) boost sales, which is nice. Now, do the people who bought a cheap edition of one of my books go on to buy other ones at full price? I have no idea. Sadly, there’s no way to track something like that.

Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?

Yes, I have a newsletter mailing list (sign up at!). I try to be super low-volume with it, only sending it out when I have actual big news. Because otherwise I feel like you’re spamming people and they unsubscribe. My goal isn’t to be in touch constantly; it’s to be in touch when I need to be. I generally get subscribers when they visit my site — there are links to sign up for the newsletter all over the place, and there’s a checkbox on the contact form, too.

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?

Thanks! I haven’t been blogging as much lately because writing and family have taken up so much of my time. My primary goal with blogging was, once upon a time, to get lots of visitors and hopefully convert them into readers of my books. As time went on, though, I realized that the real purpose of the blog was for me to spout off about something and have it permanently available. So if anyone wants to know what I think on a certain topic, I can usually just point them to the site and I’ll have written something there.

Where do I find the time? I think this is where I’m supposed to make a joke about not sleeping, but the truth is I adore sleep too much. :) I’m fortunate in that I’m a pretty fast writer. And while I have trouble multitasking in “real life,” I have no trouble at all multitasking when my fingers are on a keyboard — I can work on a novel, a tweet, and a blog post roughly at the same time, jumping from one to the other as the whim strikes.

You have published some of your books in German. Do you have an audience abroad? Does marketing online help in this situation?

I’ve published in German, Japanese, Thai, Hebrew, Spanish, Russian, and a bunch more. It’s tough to gauge foreign success because you typically don’t see sales figures until very late in the process, but my books seem to really be resonating in Korea and Japan in particular, which is cool. My publisher made most of those foreign deals on my behalf.

You are published under several different genres. Does changing hats create any problems? Any tricks you can share with us? Which genre did you enjoy writing the most? Does moving from one to the other give you some breathing room?

Yeah, switching up genres is actually a big problem for me. Readers tend to like it when authors stick to a certain genre or a certain type of book. There are exceptions, obviously, but in general John Grisham writes legal thrillers, you know? And when he doesn’t, the sales on those non-thrillers aren’t as good as the thrillers. I have the same problem on a smaller sales scale. I jump around all the time. So if you loved I HUNT KILLERS, you might not care for the sci-fi mysticism of THE SECRET SEA. And so on.

There are no tricks that I’m aware of. I just love multiple genres and I can’t imagine limiting myself to just one. If there were one I enjoyed the most, I would probably stick with it, but as my career shows, I can’t stick to one thing!

Moving from one to another does let me clear the mental decks on a regular basis, which is nice. It makes it harder to build and sustain a writing career, but on the upside, I’m never, ever bored and I get to play with all the toys in the toy box, not just the ones that fit into a specific mold.

Author's Book List
Blood of My Blood - I Hunt Killers Book 3
Jazz Dent has been shot and left to die in New York City. His girlfriend Connie is in the clutches of Jazz's serial killer father, Billy. And his best friend Howie is bleeding to death on the floor of Jazz's own home in tiny Lobo's Nod. Somehow, these three must rise above the horrors their lives have become and find a way to come together in pursuit of Billy. But then Jazz crosses a line he's never crossed before, and soon the entire country is wondering: "Like father, like son?" Who is the true monster?

The chase is on, and beyond Billy there lurks something much, much worse. Prepare to meet…the Crow King.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
KOBO Store

Game - The Sequel to "I Hunt Killers"
In an effort to prove murder didn't run in the family, Jazz teamed with the police in the small town of Lobo's Nod to solve a deadly case. And now, when a determined New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz's door asking for help, he can't say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple--and its police force--running scared. So Jazz and his girlfriend, Connie, hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer's murderous game.

Both the stakes and the body count are higher in this suspenseful and unstoppable sequel from acclaimed author Barry Lyga.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
KOBO Store
iTunes Store

I Hunt Killers
Jazz is a likable teenager. A charmer, some might say.

But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, "Take Your Son to Work Day" was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could--from the criminals' point of view.

And now, even though Dad has been in jail for years, bodies are piling up in the sleepy town of Lobo's Nod. Again.

In an effort to prove murder doesn't run in the family, Jazz joins the police in the hunt for this new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret--could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

From acclaimed author Barry Lyga comes a riveting thriller about a teenager trying to control his own destiny in the face of overwhelming odds.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
KOBO Store
iTunes Store

Everyone is treating Kevin as a hero. He was in the right place and the right time and he saved a girl from being murdered. Only Kevin knows though, why he was able to save her. Things get even more complicated when Kevin is seen removing two patriotic “Support the Troops” ribbons from his car bumper. Now the town that lauded him as a hero turns on him, calling him unpatriotic. Kevin, who hadn't thought much about it up to then, becomes politcially engaged, suddenly questioning what exactly supporting the troops or even saying the pledge of allegiance every day means.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
KOBO Store

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl
Fanboy has never had it good, but lately his sophomore year is turning out to be its own special hell. The bullies have made him their favorite target, his best (and only) friend seems headed for the dark side (sports and popularity), and his pregnant mother and the step-fascist are eagerly awaiting the birth of the alien life form known as Fanboy's new little brother or sister.

Fanboy, though, has a secret: a graphic novel he's been working on without telling anyone, a graphic novel that he is convinced will lead to publication, fame, and--most important of all--a way out of the crappy little town he lives in and all the people that make it hell for him.

When Fanboy meets Kyra, a.k.a. Goth Girl, he finds an outrageous, cynical girl who shares his love of comics as well as his hatred for jocks and bullies. Fanboy can't resist someone who actually seems to understand him, and soon he finds himself willing to heed her advice--to ignore or crush anyone who stands in his way.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
KOBO Store

Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
HBS Author's Spotlight
eBook Author’s Corner
Top Shelf Author Advice
Mystery Reader’s Circle

Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

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