- Author News, Deals
- Bad Poetry
- Blog News
- Collaborating and Ghosting
- Current Affairs
- Deep Thoughts
- Favorite Books
- Marketing and Platforms
- Questions from Beginners
- Quick Tips
- Resources for Writing
- Social Media Critique
- The Business of Writing
- The Writing Craft
- Thursdays with Amanda
Category : Books
I used to regularly include updates of the books I’m reading on this blog, until I had some people complain that my personal reading habits weren’t that helpful to their writing careers. So I stopped doing it, and I’ve found I have missed talking about the various titles I’ve read, and being able to discuss books with readers books we liked or disliked. So when I received an email over the weekend that asked, “So what have you been reading lately?” I thought it was time to chat about some of the best and worst of the past few months. (Be warned: I’m a binge reader. I read a LOT in my job as a literary agent, and sometimes I’ll get on a roll and need to read several books on a topic. So maybe you won’t find all of this helpful, but at least you’ll know what an agent is reading — and I’ll encourage you to drop by the “comments” section at the bottom and tell me what YOU’VE been reading.)
-Over the past six months, I read a bunch of Malcolm Gladwell titles. I re-read Blink, Outliers, and The Tipping Point, then read David and Goliath. He’s one of those writers I always find interesting, and one of the few I feel I can go back and re-read without being bored. I learn a lot from Gladwell, and he causes me to think in new ways.
-In a flurry of reading on art forgery, I read several titles: Provenance, The Rescue Artist, The Art of the Con, Stealing Rembrandts, Caveat Emptor, Priceless, and Art of the Deal (the Horowitz version, not the Donald Trump version… though I suppose that book also touches on con men). I thought Priceless was great, Provenance was interesting, Caveat Emptor was awful, and the others fell somewhere in between. If you want to learn about a subject, reading a half-dozen books on
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
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.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
Your novel is ready to go. Your nonfiction book is fleshed out. NOW WHAT?
We’ve got a brand new book releasing to help all writers who are trying to create the best book proposal possible. Step by Step Pitches and Proposals: A Workbook for Writers is the new book from longtime editor Holly Lorincz and me.
This book uses clear, detailed explanations, work-sheets, and annotated examples to walk you step-by-step through: industry terminology, querying, pitching, creating a proposal, and formatting the whole thing. You’ll find helpful information regarding what to say, who and when to query, and how to find contacts. Suggestions on how to create a pitch are offered, along with sample pitches, as well as advice from a speaking professional on how to deal with a face-to-face pitch.
Inside, there are detailed instructions for building professional, industry-standard proposals, both fiction and nonfiction, using plenty of examples and multiple samples of successful, real proposals. In fact, that’s one of the things that sets this apart from other books on proposals — I went back to authors whose books I had sold, and asked their permission to use the proposals we created. So the text offers real-world examples of proposals from books that actually sold in the market, including a couple bestselling books. There are also worksheets available in each section which readers have found extremely useful, walking the writer through their own material. There is even a section on how to format a manuscript before attaching it to a proposal. Here’s what some people in the industry have said:“Chip MacGregor was my first literary agent and helped me get my very first book deal. I don’t know if there’s a better possible way for me to answer the question ‘Does Chip MacGregor know what he’s talking about?’ than that!” – Jon Acuff, New York Times Bestselling author of Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work and Never Get
I spent last week talking about all the resolution the reader expects from the denouement– resolve the events of the climax, answer unanswered questions, wrap up subplots, and establish main characters’ immediate futures. Sounds like a lot of content, right? But you as the author have a delicate balancing act to maintain, because while it’s true that the reader is going to be dissatisfied if you leave out the resolution they expect, it’s also true that there’s no better way to make sure your reader’s enthusiasm has flagged by the time they read the words “The End” than by dragging the book out two chapters after the story has actually ended. Ending on an anticlimax leaves a dull taste in the reader’s mouth and causes their last impression of your book to be a less positive one than if you send them out on an emotional high note, and the way to do this is to fit all your resolution in before the excitement of the climax has fully worn off.
The reader’s emotional high point usually coincides with the characters’, which is usually the climax– in a romance, the climax is not the wedding, but the dramatic moment when Slim rescues Peggy Sue from the train tracks and confesses that he always loved her, he just didn’t think a lawman had any right to ask a nice well-bred young lady to marry him and share his dangerous life. This is the moment when tension and emotions are the highest, and this is the moment that readers have been waiting for. Sure, they want to read that the happy couple got off the train tracks in time and know that Salty Sam is going to jail for his crimes, but the story is effectively over
I’m starting a new series today, one that will last until I run out of things to say on the topic or until I get bored, whichever comes first. I’ve received several ending-related questions over the past few weeks as well as been disappointed by the endings of several otherwise-good submissions I’ve read lately, so I thought we’d spend a few weeks talking about how to end a novel as effectively as you began it.
There are a whole lot of resources out there to help you craft a dynamite beginning of a novel– plenty of “first five chapters” workshops, lots of conversation on the importance of a great opening sentence, a bunch of opinions on how soon in a book the action needs to kick off– but not as much attention paid to how to END a novel well. It makes sense; the beginning is what makes someone decide whether or not to keep reading, and therefore gets most of the responsibility for selling a book to an agent, editor, or reader, but too often, all this emphasis on the beginning of a novel leads to some neglected or rough endings by comparison, and endings are what make someone decide whether or not to look for another book from that author. If you’ve managed to entice a reader into picking up your book and making it all the way through, you want them to stick around longer than just that one book. This week, we’ll talk about how the end of a story and the end of a book are (or should be) connected, as well as preview some of the topics we’ll address over the next few weeks.
“When is a book done?” “When is a story over?” These questions came in separately, and while they’re asking about two different things, the answers are related. A complete story has been told when the major conflict has
I’m a newbie to the publishing world. In early 2014, I received my first publishing offer from Harlequin Love Inspired. I accepted it with excitement, ready for the words hidden on my computer to be seen by all the world.
Then I received my first edits.
After hyperventilating, I read them again. I could tell my editor was right… she was brilliant, seeing things I hadn’t seen. But the changes… I didn’t have a clue where to begin. The task felt insurmountable. I wrote and wrote, and my family didn’t see me for a period of time.
When we reached the end of edits, then came an entirely new problem. They wanted me to hand the book over to them. What? When did we agree to this? Oh, yeah. When I signed the contract. But still, they actually wanted me to fork over my words. They were going to let people read them. But… but… but I’m not done yet!
I quickly realized I would never feel ready.
Part of being creative is that there’s always something more that can be changed or tweaked or deleted. That’s what deadlines are for. Someone has to pry the book from your hands. I naively thought I would have a book done before the deadline. I’m not a procrastinator and I don’t do things last minute. But I never realized that I wouldn’t feel ready to give it up. I did send it in on time, and then I wandered around my house for a week wondering what to do with myself. Laundry would have been a good option.
Next came the request for titles. I went round and round on those, bugging my friends, my poor agent Amanda, and my husband until people were texting me random title ideas at all hours of the day.
Once a title was picked, we moved on to line edits.
Oh, wait. You thought the edits
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. You can also check out her marketing skills on Fiverr. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
PLEASE READ THROUGH TO THE END… EVEN IF YOU DIDN’T WIN I HAVE SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR YOU…
Last week I invited you to share with me the various projects you’ll be working in 2015. I believe there is something inspiring about writers sharing ideas with others. There is something about making a public commitment to PURSUE a project that makes it so much more real (and we all know how working on a book alone, on your own, can many times feel like you’re pretending at this whole writer thing). So I’m very glad that we got a good response to my post. I’m glad for the thirty-some of you who took me up on my challenge and made your 2015 goal project public.
And as promised, I’ve chosen a favorite! Here are some things that I considered when reading through the submissions:
- Does the project have a strong external plot? It’s easy to focus on the internal arc (what are their fears and how do the characters change on the inside?), but a pitch is all about the external. What happens TO these characters? That’s what I’m more concerned about at this stage in the game.
- Does the project sound different? I see a lot of pitches, a lot of story ideas, and so I’m alway on the lookout for a book that is unique. Something that either I haven’t heard before or something that is different enough from the status quo.
- Do I want to
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Instead of doing a list of resolutions or predictions or blah blah blah, we’re going to do something fun…
Let’s face it, if we’re serious about writing, we should be able to finish a book this year, right? So, let’s focus on THAT.
What book will you finish in 2015? It can be a novel. A nonfiction book. One you’ve been working on for years or one you’re starting today. Whatever it is, tell us about it! Give us a one-paragraph blurb. Really sell the thing. Make it shine. I’ll be reading the comments and will pick my personal favorite NEXT THURSDAY. Spread the word!
So it’s the end of the year, and I always try to ask readers to participate in a couple of conversations with me. My question for you: What was the best book you read in 2014?
It doesn’t have to be new, but I’m interested in what you read this past year. My list was pretty long — longer than normal, I think. I read through Abraham Erghese’s Cutting for Stone, Robert Kolker’s haunting Lost Girls, Ben Mezrich’s interesting Bringing Down the House, Douglas Preston’s fascinating The Monster of Florence, Robert Wittman’s Priceless (a fascinating book about the FBI’s art theft team), John Schiffman’s Operation Shakespeare (about the US government going after illegal arms traders), Les Edgerton’s The Genuine Imitation Plastic Kidnapping (perhaps my favorite comic read this year), Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Karen Prior’s Fierce Convictions, four books from Malcolm Gladwell, two from Bill Bryson, and two from thriller writer Joshua Graham. All of these would make my “suggested reading list.” I also re-read two from Charles Dickens, two by Mark Twain, two from Henry Nouwen, two from personal favorite Lauren Winner, and Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August (a favorite of mine).
Authors I represent also had several good titles release — and while it’s not fair to name all of them, a handful of favorites were Susan Meissner’s A Fall of Marigolds, Lisa Samson’s Runaway Saint, Maegan Beaumont’s Sacrificial Muse, Bonnie Gray’s Finding Whitespace, Emily Wierenga’s Atlas Girl, and Vince Zandri’s The Shroud Key. Les Edgerton’s Finding Your Voice came out in a special edition on Snippet, and it’s one of the best writing books I’ve ever read (plus you get to listen to Les telling stories in video clips). And Rob Brunet’s Stinking Rich is a hoot, if you like crime capers.
There were others I really liked. Anything from Jessica Dotta is going to be good, and her most recent,