Friday, December 29, 2017

EM Kaplan - An Author Interview at the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Award-winning mystery and fantasy author EM Kaplan. She is the author of snarky Josie Tucker mysteries. Emily writes Mystery, Fantasy, and Young Adult novels.

Author: EM Kaplan

Author Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Young Adult

Website: EM Kaplan
Author's Blog: EM Kaplan Newsletter
Twitter: @meilaan
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Google+: Check Out Google+
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Amazon Author Profile

Author Description:
While all the other school kids moaned about homework, Emily scribbled satires of her least favorite classes, redrawing teachers as evil alien overlords. She is the living embodiment of the axiom, "It's always the quiet ones."

Award-winning mystery and fantasy author, EM Kaplan, was an 80s kid, spoonfed on six channels of VHF dial TV. She grew up reading Agatha Christie and Edgar Rice Burroughs in rural Arizona where there were no sidewalks but plenty of tumbleweeds.

A former wannabe spy, trombonist, toilet-cleaner, beginner ninja, and subversive marketeer, she currently lives in the frozen north with her husband, author JD Kaplan, kids, and dog.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your book: The Ella Menza Style. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Thanks. The Ella Menza Style is a new genre for me—romantic comedy. If you’ve ever used the writing guide, Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, you might have a clue as to the particular brand of nerd Ella Menza is.

I have a couple of projects lined up for 2018. The first one is the final book of my fantasy series, The Rise of the Masks. This book concludes what’s been a massive upheaval of a time of innocence and mysticism in this fantasy world of the Masks. Families have been torn apart and old-world structure has crumbled. In the final book, we’ll see why all this has happened.

I also have the fifth Josie Tucker mystery in planning. In the previous book, Full Slab Dead, she was in Texas eating barbecue. This time, she’ll be in a much colder place. That’s my only hint. Also, I’ve been thinking about Hitchcock a lot lately…

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?

Twitter has been wonderful primarily for developing connections with other writers. I’ve been on Twitter since 2008—which is why my handle is my middle name and not my author name—but I started using it for books and writing only four years ago. Since then, I’ve met writers who’ve taught me about Twitter, marketing, Amazon ads, newsletters, promos, podcasts, and more. Without them, I might have given up by now. Instead, they’ve helped me connect with readers in a variety of ways.

Do you do any book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I do more personal appearances in the warmer months—mostly because of the Chicago winters. I did a book release signing for Full Slab Dead at my favorite local barbecue place this past summer. I’m also at Chicago Printer’s Row Book Festival every year as well as several local book festivals—Round Lake Beach, Elgin, Lake Geneva, and a few others.

In January, I’ll be on a panel at a Sisters in Crime Chicagoland chapter at Centuries & Sleuths bookstore in Forest Park, IL. I also plan to be at Capricon, a four-day science fiction convention held each year in the Chicago area since 1981. In June, I’ll be at Art on the Fox in Algonquin, IL.

I tend to stay around the Chicago area, but I’ve been out to the Tucson Festival of Books. If everything works out, I be at ConCarolinas in Charlotte, NC, in June.

I announce everything ahead of time on my Facebook page and my website.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Thanks! I appreciate that. I create them myself. That’s also been a learning curve. All the different genres and sub-genres out in the book market have distinct looks to them—tropes, almost. Cozy mystery covers usually have bright colors and cartoonish people on them, especially culinary mysteries. Dark or erotic romance are usually grayscale with a nude male torso and a combination of a bold font with a cursive font. Fantasies often have a single, heroic image of a person centered on front. And so on…

When I’m working on a mystery, I’ll often stop and make a mock up of the cover just to spur my imagination or to solidify some of the major themes or events. The visual aspect helps me write and also gets me thinking about how to market the book, even before I finish the first draft.

Several 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?

Audiobooks are a huge market. They have been a significant part of my sales. So many people have long commutes or find that their eyes and brains are just too tired to read at the end of the day. Other people are visually impaired or have other obstacles to reading, so this is great for them. Some people have mentioned they like to listen while they do other things, like clean. Kind of a “whistle while you work” technique.

I like the idea of bundling a series of novels. You have put together a set of your novels called A Josie Tucker Omnibus: Three Snarky, Un-Cozy, Un-Culinary Humorous Mysteries. What was the impact on your other sales? What was your main objective in bundling your novels?

The omnibus is basically a way to offer readers a discount—whether through Kindle Unlimited or outright purchase—and a convenient way to pick up three books at once. It may have a smaller profit margin than selling three books individually, but it has more of a chance of gaining true fans as they power through three books in one big swoop. I’m more interested in winning long-term fans than making a couple of extra dollars now.

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?

I’ve done a few limited-time freebies with very good success. I use only the anchor books—book 1 in a series—as freebies. It pulls sales of the other books in the series with it.

I’ve also run a few Amazon giveaways—of ebooks and of random items that had some relation to a book on sale or new release—that have worked well.

What is your primary genre? What has been your best marketing approach to this group?

I’m mostly known for my humorous Josie Tucker mysteries. These snarky, quirky books make up the majority of my sales.

I don’t want to stereotype too badly, but if I’m at a book fair, I know exactly who will buy one of my mysteries before that person says a word. I can spot a sharp-eyed mystery reader at 50 paces. Conventional wisdom says the average mystery reader is a Miss Marple type of person herself. This isn’t wrong—but there’s more to the modern mystery reader than that. Probably 90% of my sales are ebooks. My readers are relatively tech-savvy. Online promotions work with them.

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?

I have mailing lists for my newsletter and also a group of about 75 beta readers—not all of those beta readers are active, but it gives me a nice pool of available ones for each release. I’m not authoritarian or demanding, but I get some wonderful feedback. Some of them are very dedicated and thorough.

Amy Vansant over at has some great newsletter-building events that can help a writer get more newsletter subscribers.

My newsletter goes out once a month (or less). I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and occasionally on Pinterest and Tumblr. I used to post a weekly blog on my website:, but I’ve been focusing more on books lately. I still have a day job, but I was able to go to part-time this summer, which helped me get The Ella Menza Style out this year in addition to Full Slab Dead.

You published The Bride Wore Dead in Spanish. How is your audience abroad? Does marketing online help in this situation?

Marketing a Spanish version of a book has been very tricky. I found an excellent translator through Babelcube. The nature of international sales, however, is that I don’t see the results of a promotion for several months, so I can’t tell immediately what has been effective.

International sales are where I think traditional publishers have the advantage so far. Otherwise, there aren’t many downsides to being an indie writer as I see it.

Author's Book List
The Ella Menza Style - A Hot & Nerdy Romantic Comedy
Ella never leaves work early. She loves her copy of Strunk & White. She buttons her shirt up to the top. She buys beige furniture. She pays her bills on time and always says hello to her neighbors. If she were a superhero, her alter-ego would be SuperPoliteGirl. She doesn’t have any vices—as long as swearing in Italian doesn’t count.

If she were in a romance novel, her fiancĂ© wouldn’t fit the mold of the love interest—not by any stretch of the imagination. His shoulders aren’t particularly broad, his five o’clock shadow comes in patchy during the night, and his voice is a moderate tenor, not a shiver-inducing baritone. But those minor issues are the elements of fiction. No one needs that in day-to-day life.


Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

Full Slab Dead - An Un-Cozy Un-Culinary Josie Tucker Mystery - Josie Tucker Mysteries Book 4
Trouble down in Texas... When snarky food critic, Josie Tucker, heads to Austin, Texas, to wax philosophical about the local barbecue joints, she stumbles on to a decades' old missing person case. With the help of a local reporter, a Goth ghost hunter, and a bunco-playing transvestite, she tries to unravel the heart-tugging, hidden history before the whole place goes up in smoke.

Order the Book From:

Dead Man on Campus - An Un-Cozy Un-Culinary Josie Tucker Mystery - Josie Tucker Mysteries Book 3
A stalker. A liar. A dead man. But which is which?

A mysterious letter-writer causes havoc on the idyllic Bader University campus. After a professor receives numerous poison pen letters, more and more threatening in nature, Josie Tucker is on the case...grudgingly.

All the grumpy food blogger wants is to be left in peace with her dog, her man, and her laptop. She certainly doesn't need her own gang of meddling kids. Now, she's the leader of their pack.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

Dim Sum, Dead Some - An Un-Cozy Un-Culinary Josie Tucker Mystery - Josie Tucker Mysteries Book 2
Ivan Sorokin is missing. Who wants him out of the picture—his wife, his business partner, or the stripper who holds his heart?

Josie Tucker stands on Beach Street with her back to the San Francisco wharf. Above her, the Ghirardelli sign winks in the dusky twilight, seducing her. The ice cream parlor lights beckon like a lactose Lothario, a casein Casanova, trying hard to woo her. But her heart longs for dumplings, for dim sum.

Dim sum means “heart’s delight.” Imagine nibbling at a savory golden pouch stuffed with delicately seasoned meat. If a lover offers the morsel on the tips of exquisitely lacquered chopsticks late in the morning while reclining on silken cushions…that’s food for the heart.

Chinatown. Dim sum. Murder. Josie’s perfect ingredients for adventure.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

The Bride Wore Dead - An Un-Cozy Un-Culinary Josie Tucker Mystery - Josie Tucker Mysteries Book 1
Snarky food critic Josie Tucker usually can soothe any problem with food or drink. Missed bus? Mango-orange smoothie. Mild doldrums? A piece of peppered beef jerky. But lately, she can’t stand the smell of a watery cup of broth. Being at the mercy of an indignant and vengeful stomach is no cup of tea.

So what happens when she gets roped into being the last-minute bridesmaid at a society wedding? The bride’s mother tries to kill her with kindness. Too bad for the bride, Josie won't be the only victim.

Order the Book From:

Unbroken - Rise of the Masks Book 2
No broken promises. No matter the distance, no matter how much time has passed, Rav promised to return to her younger sister.

Far south in the Red Desert, young Zunee was left in charge of their family. Now she must fend off evil warlords while trying to keep her younger sisters from starving in the harsh desertland.

Mel and Ott make the arduous journey south to the Red Desert to help reunite the two sisters. But gods above, do the very elements conspire to keep the them apart?

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

Unmasked - Rise of the Masks Book 1
Mel can sense the blood beating through your veins. She can count the moments between heartbeats to tell when you are lying. She can make herself stronger, heal small wounds, and manipulate light to change her appearance. She is a Mask—a cloaked and imposing arbitrator, revered and feared by all.

Ott is a hunter from the frozen north who's tracking the horrifying monsters that have come up through the ground. Blessed by easy charm and good looks, Ott is used to the attention of females, but, gods above, he is knocked flat by the kiss of the ethereal woman he rescues. How could she possibly be a Mask?

Magical beasties? Nightmares come to life? The world as they know it is about to change forever.

Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment