Q&A With Jeffrey Yamaguchi

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Q&A With Jeffrey Yamaguchi 

For this Q&A I am delighted to be interviewing Jeffrey Yamaguchi. Jeffrey is a writer, author, and book marketing expert. What’s very impressive is Jeffrey led marketing & publicity teams & launched bestselling books from some of the biggest authors in the world at publishers both large and small which includes Knopf Doubleday (Penguin Random House), Harper Collins, Abrams Books, The New Press & Blackstone Publishing. One of Jeffrey’s many books is 52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity and Working For The Man. Jeffrey’s poetry, stories, collages & photography have been published by Black Bough Poetry, The Storms, The Hyacinth Review, & Okay Donkey & those are some of the many literary journals. Jeffrey’s short films include Unsettled which premiered at Atticus Review & Body of Water & he co-produced the #TalkTraffic video series for the New York Anti-Trafficking Network. Currently Jeffrey serves on the planning and fundraising committees of the Rohwer/Jerome Pilgrimage & is working on a project about the photographs that his grandfather took while he was incarcerated at Rohwer during World War II. 

Q: Jeffrey, would you please explain to the readers and I what your role as a book marketer is? 

A: Thanks for doing this interview with me, Bianca. I’ve always appreciated the book marketer role because it’s so wide-ranging and expansive. High level, it’s about developing and executing creative campaigns to connect books/authors with an audience, sell lots of books, and to establish long-term connections. The nuts-and-bolts elements of a campaign from a marketer perspective are paid ads, social media, publicity, author platform, videos, bookseller merchandising, partnerships, events, and more. To get all that done, you work closely with the sales and publicity teams, as well as designers and the editor, and of course, the author. It’s very collaborative, and everyone brings their ideas and relationships/connections to the table in order to develop and run a successful campaign.

Q: When pursuing a career as a book marketer, did you go to college first or apply for an internship?

A: I didn’t major in marketing or take book marketing courses in college. But I did work on the college newspaper, and that’s where I fell in love with the whole publishing process — editorial, design, production, advertising, distribution. I was really inspired by the concept of a story going from idea to print to reader, and I especially enjoyed the collaborative nature of the newsroom. This interest evolved and led me to book publishing, and I gravitated toward marketing because, one, that’s where early job opportunities were, and two, because of the expansiveness of marketing roles.

Q: You have led marketing & publicity teams & launched bestselling books from some of the biggest authors in the world! I find that amazing! Would you please tell the readers of the blog & I about some of the big authors that you’ve launched their books? 

A: I have been fortunate to work on campaigns for a good number of big names, bestselling authors over the years, like Michael Crichton, Dan Brown, John Grisham, and Jeff Kinney. Those are great projects to work on because there’s usually a sizable budget, and people from across the publishing house, as well as partners, are fully engaged. These authors have huge audiences, and they sell lots of books, and that opens a lot of doors. The challenge is, how do you add new elements to keep sales and the audience on a growth trajectory, raising the bar even higher? That’s the fun part — figuring that out, selling the ideas to the larger team (and the author/agent), and then executing. Truthfully, as a marketer and books person, I am not drawn so much to big name authors, but rather, how I can bring and execute on strategies that help a book/author/publisher connect with and grow its audience. The challenges and game plan will be different for a big-name author versus a debut author, and that is what I am drawn to — the challenges and the unique ways to approach them.

Q: What’s it like having your poetry, stories, collages & photography published in the famous literary journals Black Bough Poetry, The Storms, The Hyacinth Review, & Okay Donkey? If you like, feel free to post links to where we can read your stuff! 

A: I really do like to engage in creative projects — It’s what informs and inspires pretty much all areas of my life, including my professional book publishing/marketing/publicity work. And writing and working to get published is part of the process of this creative work. I’m glad to be a part of the literary community in this way, making those connections, writer to writer, poet to poet. The energy that is in the small press community has always been an inspiration to me. I also think this work really informs how I engage with writers as a book marketer/publicist — I have a deeper understanding of their experience, because I’m in the thick of it as well. I get plenty of rejections from lit journals. I’ve tabled at events hawking my own zines. I’ve done readings. I’ve had plenty of disappointments, as well as celebratory moments, as a writer. I get to combine this experience with my book publishing expertise, and it helps me better connect with authors and develop stronger campaigns.


Some recently published pieces:

Last Day Cupcakes” at Okay Donkey (This story was just selected for the 2024 Best Small Fictions anthology).

Following the Echo Map of Missed Calls” at The Hyacinth Review.

Summer Calm” at Boats Against the Current.

Until It’s Time to Fall” at Anti-Heroin Chic.

Q: You co-produced the #TalkTraffic video series for the New York Anti-Trafficking Network. I think it’s important we bring awareness to this very serious issue and I’m glad you are doing it. What made you personally passionate about bringing awareness to this issue? What can we do to help? 

A: I think this project is a really good example of how my book publishing professional work and my creative side projects benefit each other and lead to better work overall. I’ve worked on so many author videos and book trailers, and I just wanted to develop some personally meaningful video projects that were done outside of the day job, essentially. My wife, Juhu Thukral, is the expert and advocate on the subject matter for the #TalkTraffic project, and we hired a couple of trusted and talented filmmakers (and good friends) — Jordan and Cassie Timpy — to develop the videos. We used our own money to fund it, and it was done in collaboration with the New York Anti-Trafficking Network. The whole goal was to provide insights into trafficking from experts in the field, so people could learn and be better informed, and to answer questions like the one you asked — what can a person do to help. 

I learned a lot by doing this project, and doing it as a personal project, free of day job parameters and approvals from a boss/management structure, was refreshing and motivating. Doing work in this way balances out the demands and challenges of the overall workload, and helps things flow in a more positive and creative way across the board. 

Q: You currently serve on the planning and fundraising committees of the Rohwer/Jerome Pilgrimage, as well as working on a project about the photographs that your grandfather took while he was incarcerated at Rohwer during World War II. This project of yours, are you writing a book about your grandfather’s time Rohwer, or are you doing a documentary? However you do this project, it’s very important so that we don’t forget history. Another author, Iris Yamashita, who wrote the screenplay Letters From Iwo Jima & who I’ve done a Q&A with, is doing an audio series with the BBC about Japanese Americans who fought for the US during World War II. 

A: I will definitely, check out your interview with Iris Yamashita, thank you for sharing that. And you are absolutely, right that this part of our history must be learned and remembered.

We just wrapped the pilgrimage in Arkansas, and it was an incredible experience. Members of my family attended, and I got to meet not only my fellow committee members, but also all the other pilgrims – 200 people in total. A very moving and memorable experience. What got me involved is that my wife and I visited the Rohwer site about three years ago, while on a road trip. I had never been to the place where my Grandparents were incarcerated during WWII, and being there, it just hit me how much I didn’t know. As part of the effort to learn more, I joined the pilgrimage committee. I’ve also visited the sites of other concentration camps, been to the National Archives to do research, and more. I’m still in the research and learning phase, so exactly what my project will be is yet to be determined. But one piece of it is Concentrational Resonance — a newsletter I am publishing, sharing both info about my own project-in-progress, as well as the projects and resources of others, all focused on the Japanese American WWII incarceration experience. 

Q: How would aspiring authors who want the best marketing for their books as possible, get you to be a part of their team? 

A: For most of my career I’ve worked at publishing houses like Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Abrams Books — publishers big and small, where the authors I worked with were being published by those publishing houses. But just last year I started working directly with both authors and publishers as a consultant, meaning I’m open to working with authors looking to hire an outside/freelance marketing/publicity consultant. I really enjoy working with all types of authors across many genres, from debut novelists to established authors looking to expand their audiences and try new things. I hope to work with people who understand that publishing is a long game, and very much about relationships, and that strong foundational elements are just as important as creative flair. I encourage people to check out my book publishing focused newsletter, Book Publishing Brick By Brick — and website — — to learn more about my work and how I approach book campaigns. Big thanks to you Bianca for these great questions and for allowing me to share information and insights with your readers.