• Brian

    February 11, 2016

    Wherever You Go…There You Are

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    Publishing & Technology: Wherever You Go…There You Are

    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be taking a break from talking about either publishing or technology (I know it’s my first post since the new website and blog went live).  Instead I’ll go through the rundown of the conferences I’ll be attending this year and in what capacity.

    January 30th Write to Publish at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. I’ll be sitting on a panel with another agent and two lawyers discussing intellectual property rights, trademark, copyright issues, and how they impact the publishing process.  http://ooligan.pdx.edu/writetopublish/

    April 16th – Terroir Creative Writing Festival at Chemeketa Community College in McMinnville, Oregon. I’ll be giving a one-hour class on finding and working with an agent and freelance editors, and the publishing process in general. http://terroircreativewritingfestival.com/

    May 11th-13th – Book Expo America in New York. I’ll be attending in my capacity as our foreign and subsidiary rights agent. http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/

    July 28th-31st – Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Conference at the Doubletree in Seatac, Washington. I’ll be listening to pitches and participating in panels, workshops, etc.

    http://www.pnwa.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=680654#

    August 12th-14th – Willamette Writers Conference at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel here in Portland, Oregon. I’ll be listening to pitches and participating in panels, workshops, etc. http://willamettewriters.org/wwcon/

    October 19th-23rd – Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany. I’ll be attending in my capacity as our foreign and subsidiary rights agent. http://www.buchmesse.de/en/fbf/

    November 5th – Wordstock at the Portland Art Museum here in Portland, Oregon. Participation level TBD at this point. http://www.literary-arts.org/what-we-do/wordstock/

    That’s all we know about for now. I’ll keep the blog posted if something big develops. I hope to see you out there somewhere. In the interim, keep writing!

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  • amanda-square

    February 11, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: Don’t Believe These 5 Book Marketing Lies

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    amanda-squareThere is nothing easy about book marketing. Nothing.

    And yet if you spend any amount of time reading up on it, you’re led to believe otherwise. Posts and comments tend to make it sound like a walk in the park. Do this and that and that again and voila! You’re golden.

    And then you try this and that and that again and … crickets.

    It’s easy to feel as though everyone has marketing figured out, while you struggle to get a single follow, a single like, a single comment on your blog.

    Because it’s so hard, we naturally come up with reasons as to why it’s not working for us … or why it is working for others. And we come up with excuses as to why we haven’t put together a strategy or why we haven’t called in some marketing favors.

    These excuses and reasonings may make us feel better, but we’re ultimately hurting ourselves and our careers. A book that isn’t marketed certainly isn’t going to sell itself. But a book that is marketed has a fighting chance.

    And a chance is all it takes.

    5 BOOK MARKETING LIES as gleaned from the writers I’ve talked to over the years.

    1. I don’t have a book, so I have nothing to market.

    I hear this all the time from aspiring writers, and while I can see their point, the issue here is that they aren’t viewing the situation properly. If being an author is a career and your books are your business, then that makes readers your customers. The best way to connect with customers isn’t to throw marketing and sales pitches at them, saying buy, buy, BUY! Rather, it’s the relationship that counts in the long run. So if you’re an aspiring historical fiction author, hang out with the historical fiction readers! If you’re an aspiring romantic comedy writer, find where the lovers of all things chick

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  • brick green no smile b:w

    February 10, 2016

    Literary Devices for the Real World: Tone

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    Pitch-Book-Cover-cropped-3
    Welcome back to my series on literary devices and how to use them to your best advantage this side of your college lit classroom. This week, we’re talking about tone: what it is, how to identify it in your own writing, and how to harness it to create the atmosphere you want to create in your writing.

    Tone 101

    Let’s start with the technical definition: tone is the attitude adopted by the author toward the events of the story. Tone is revealed through the author’s word choice, commentary, and syntax, and is on display whenever the author uses these elements to reveal his bias toward certain characters, themes, or incidents occurring in the story.

    The (arguably) most effective tool an author has at her disposal when creating tone is her word choice. Just about every word in the English language has a whole set of baggage attached to it based on the books you’ve read, the conversations you’ve had, even the region you grew up in, and while this baggage varies slightly from reader to reader because of the unique background of each one, most English-speaking US readers have approximately the same response to 85% (completely made-up statistic) of the words an author could use to describe a character– tell us a character is “crafty,” or his movements are “shifty,” and we know you’re telling us you don’t believe the character is very trustworthy. Tell us someone “walks with a swagger” and we know you think they’re arrogant.

    This subtle (or sometimes not) indication of his bias on the part of the author can reveal a whole host of inferences– word choice tells the reader whether the author believes a character is to be pitied, admired, patronized, snubbed, whether a setting is pleasant, boring, tasteful, or ugly, whether an incident is tragic, deserved, funny, or insignificant, etc. People generally classify “bias” as a bad thing, accusing news sources of

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  • amanda-square

    February 4, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: My Path to Becoming an Agent

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    1People are always curious to know how I became an agent. Did I intern with the agency? Did I apply and get hired? Did I go through a special program? Did Chip owe my dad a favor?

    I’ve found there are usually two paths to working in publishing. One involves getting the right internships and then getting hired on afterward. And the other involves just being in the right place at the right time.

    For me it all happened at a book signing in 2008. In Fort Wayne, Indiana.

    I was working as an admissions counselor at a university at which Chip was a visiting professor. My friend, who happened to be a student there, kept telling me about this big-time agent who was on campus and how I needed to meet him. But despite it being a very small school, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who he was.

    (Now, in retrospect, I had seen him around campus. But with his goatee and pressed dress shirt, I assumed he was the new Pastoral Ministries prof.)

    So the only way to be sure to meet him, my friend decided, was to trap him at an author book signing.

    At the time, I (ashamedly) didn’t recognize the name of the author holding the book signing (Chip tells me it was Lisa Samson), and I honestly didn’t know very much about Chip or the role of an agent. But I DID know that my friend had told me he was epic. And that he had worked with Britney Spears’s mom. Which, let’s be honest, was enough to get me really wanting this to happen.

    I mean, what else could come of it than me being Brit Brit’s bestie?

    So, off we went. We walked in to the store; my friend located Chip; and then I took a breath, walked up, and introduced myself.

    He said something sarcastic.

    I said

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  • brick green no smile b:w

    February 3, 2016

    Literary Devices for the Real World: Foreshadowing

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    Old open book with a vintage library background

    Welcome to week three of Literary Devices for the Real World! I’m talking today about one of those classic high school literary devices teachers and textbooks loved to point out, foreshadowing.

    You may remember learning about foreshadowing from poems like The Highwayman and short stories such as The Lottery or The Tell-Tale Heart, and if so, it might be that you associate foreshadowing chiefly with melodrama and literary horror. The idea that foreshadowing = foreboding, however, or that foreshadowing is a tool of literary writers only is a far too narrow understanding of foreshadowing and its function in storytelling. The fact is that foreshadowing shows up everywhere, in all types of stories, literary or otherwise, chick lit or mystery. It can show up in any genre, adding dimension, helping to catch and hold the reader’s interest, and helping to establish or reinforce the tone of a story. Foreshadowing is a device storytellers instinctively use to heighten their audience’s emotional response to their story— even if you don’t specifically set out to include it, you most likely will do so without a conscious effort. Recognizing the variety of techniques for accomplishing foreshadowing and knowing the ways it can strengthen or heighten your story can help ensure that you’re maximizing its potential to enhance your reader’s experience of your story.

    Let’s first take a look at some foreshadowing basics. Foreshadowing, by definition, is an allusion to or hint at something yet to happen in a story. It can be subtle, such as a sneeze in chapter 1 from the character who’s going to die of pneumonia in chapter 10, or obvious, such as a direct revelation from the author or narrator (Shakespeare starts Romeo and Juliet by telling the reader/audience that in the story, “a pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life”). Foreshadowing can occur in dialogue (“I forgot you can’t swim. Don’t you get nervous living so close

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  • chip-macgregor-square

    February 1, 2016

    About that million seller…

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    Old BooksSo today I received a proposal that included these words: “This is a sure-fire million seller!”

    Uh-huh. Everybody thinks they’re going to sell a million copies. They hear about Fifty Shades of Gray and Hunger Games, and they think, “My book is just as good as those!”

    Want a dose of reality? The 2015 sales reports are out. Take a look at how many books actually sold a million copies last year…

    Of the hundreds of children’s and YA books that released last year, how many actually sold a million copies? One. That’s right — one. Old School, the tenth book in the Jeff Kenney Diary of a Wimpy Kid series was the only book last year that sold a million copies in print. John Green’s Paper Towns surpassed a million copies if you include print and ebook sales, but in print, there was ONE book. (And by the way, the bestselling print author in this genre last year is a guy who passed away 25 years ago — Dr Seuss sold a half-million copies of Oh the Places You’ll Go, and nearly that many copies of What Pet Should I Get, Green Eggs and Ham, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.) 

    And although there were thousands of nonfiction books released last year, guess how many sold more than a million copies in print? Um, one. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, and aimed at all those slightly-OCD people like me, was the only title to surpass the million mark. To be fair, Chris Kyle’s American Sniper actually sold more than a million copies in print, but half were in a trade size book and half were in mass market, and those are treated as two different books by the crazy reporting system we have in publishing. It’s also a lock that Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Reagan had to have surpassed the million mark if

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  • amanda-square

    January 28, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: Your Website Is Your Baby

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    amanda-squareAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. She used to post on this blog every Thursday, but then things got busy and she had to prioritize. So she took a break. Amanda is smart. Be like Amanda.

    There’s one thing I’ve noticed about expectant moms these days (and no, this isn’t a post about pregnancy or motherhood)…Moms will spend weeks visiting various hospitals in their area, looking for the perfect match for their needs and expectations. They consider everything from doctor availability to space to freebies to distance from home to overall comfort level. They weigh each item against the other until a clear winner emerges.

    It makes sense when you think about how important having a baby is.

    But what if I told you that they do the same thing when purchasing a stroller or crib or carseat? What if I told you that moms these days tend to turn every babygear decision into an extensive list of pros and cons?

    Agents and editors frequently mention the need for a professional webpage, website, or blog. But one of the most common mistakes authors (and people in general) make when venturing into a relationship with a web designer is that they don’t view their career as their baby. They fail to ask questions. They fail to vet those that they hire and truly understand what they’re signing up (and paying!) for.

    So, before enlisting some Joe Schmoe designer to do your website, present him with these five questions:

    1. Can you show me examples of your previous work? Just like every author writes with a unique voice, every artist creates with a unique point of view. So before you ever consider hiring anyone to do design work for you, you must connect with their artwork. Ask to see samples (because what you see is oftentimes what you’ll get). If you like what you see, then you may have a
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  • brick green no smile b:w

    January 27, 2016

    Literary Devices for the Real World: Flashbacks

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    Pile of books on a black background

    Hello, class, and welcome to week 1 of “Literary Devices for the Real World.” Over the next several weeks, I’ll be talking about how to best use literary devices in your writing to better serve your story and improve your craft. This week: flashbacks.

    Flashbacks are one of the most commonly used literary devices, and one that can take many forms. Put simply, a flashback is a reference to or depiction of events having occurred before the “present day” of the story. Flashbacks can be external– referencing events from a character’s life before the point at which the current narrative began– or internal– referencing events that happened within the current narrative– and can occur in dreams, recall (“my father used to smoke a pack a day”), or full, immersive scenes from the past incorporated into the present-day narrative.

    Flashbacks serve to provide the reader with background information on a setting or conflict and to increase the reader’s sympathy for and understanding of a character. They can also increase the tension or suspense surrounding the current events of the story by creating curiosity about what happened between the past and the present to change things– if the main character flashes back to standing in her wedding dress at the back of a church yet in present-day the character is unmarried, the reader will know something has happened between the two realities and will want to find out what it was– divorce? Death? Left at the altar? Prologues often take the form of a flashback, starting off the book with an important scene from the past that sets up a conflict or introduces a concept or an object that will be important in the present-day story.

    Most authors use flashbacks extensively in their storytelling. Even if you don’t feel like you’re spending huge amounts of time in the past, you’re most likely constantly making reference to formative events and experiences when writing

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  • chip-macgregor-square

    January 22, 2016

    Lessons from the Diving Board (a guest blog)

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    When I was a kid, my mom signed me up for a diving class. All the beginner classes were full, so she put me in an advanced class. I guess she thought I could learn to dive from the end of a board over the deep end just as well as I could from the side of the pool. I remember doing my fair share of painful dives, and hitting my head a few times. Within six weeks, though, I was doing inwards and back flips with relative ease.
    A1MgcAJeBYL._UX250_
    Writing a first book about Martin Luther, a man well covered by the most imminent of scholars, was a little like my first inward dive–naïve, driven, and far outside my realm of experience.
    I decided to write a book about Martin Luther while homeschooling. We use a literature-based curriculum, and I just didn’t see a lot of truly great options for older kids to learn about Luther. His story is exciting. I mean, there are knights, war, kidnapping, dramatic escapes, drama, and intrigue. What kid wouldn’t want to read about that? I wanted to write about it–to truly tell his story in a way that communicated all the excitement of Luther’s life and times, without glossing over his character and later life decisions.
    My first attempt at Luther was aimed at lower elementary kids, and I took it to my debut writer’s conference, knowing that if I could just communicate the need for narrative biographies for early readers, I could write a whole line of them. After all, such lines exist for important historical secular figures. I knew I was way out on the end of the diving board, but I figured I would at least try. I’m pretty sure I was shaking all four days.
    I learned a lot that first conference (where I met Chip, whom I really enjoy), and I went home to write a biography about Martin
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  • chip-macgregor-square

    January 21, 2016

    Where I’m going to be…

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    I frequently get writers sending me notes to ask where I’m going to be — which conferences I’ll be at, what industry meetings I might attend. So I thought I’d let people know where I’m going to be, and if you’re in the area, you can say hello.

    bridge

    This weekend, January 22-23, I’m in San Diego, for the 32nd Annual SDSU Writers Conference, talking to authors and teaching a workshop on creating strong non-fiction book proposals. It’s a great lineup, with editors from Hachette, Kensington, St Martins, Tor, Morrow, and other houses, plus a long list of agents. This is always a good conference, with lots of face-time with experienced people, excellent workshops, some nice mixers — and they still have room, if you want to attend!

    On Saturday, January 30, I’m in Portland, for the Write to Publish gathering with the folks at Ooligan Press. This takes place at Portland State University (I’m an alum), and they always have an eclectic gathering of writers and industry people. This year’s workshops include Writing for Comic Books, Working with Freelance Editors, Intellectual Property Rights, and The Future of Writing.

    On Saturday, February 20, I’m on the Oregon coast, doing a half-day workshop on Creating Great Book Proposals at the Hoffman Center in Manzanita. Every month they bring in great writers to speak, and this day they’re hosting Ellen Urbani, author of Landfall (of which novelist Fanny Flagg says, “Ellen Urbani has written an amazing and original piece of literature. If you love family sagas characterized by women holding the generations together via a magical combination of grit and grace, you will love this haunting book!”). I’m teaching in the morning, and Ellen is doing a workshop on creating personal narratives in the afternoon.

    On Saturday, March 19, I’m in Omaha, doing an all-day seminar on Creating the Perfect Book Proposal for the Nebraska Writers Guild. This is my favorite

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