Category : Career

  • May 1, 2013

    What if I'm not happy with my agent?

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    Someone wrote to say, “I’ve been thinking of changing agents. I’m not convinced my current agent is a good match for me. What wisdom would you have for me?”

    I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve occasionally had authors approach me to talk about the possibility of dropping their agent. It usually goes something like, “I’m just not happy with my current agent, and I’m thinking of switching…”

    For a long time I struggled with how best to respond to those words. I have a policy against actively poaching other authors, but I have a business to run, so it’s not like I can refuse to answer the phone when a good author calls me to talk about his or her situation. However, I’ve learned to always start the conversation with the same sentence: “Have you talked this through with your current agent?” I mean, it would seem like a reasonable expectation that an author who is unhappy would go to his or her agent, express the dissatisfaction, and try to seek some sort of resolution. If there’s a communication problem, or some unanswered question, it seems like two people who have invested in each other would talk it out. (In other words, we’d all act like adults.) 

    “Lack of communication” is the #1 problem between authors and agents. So having regular communication can alleviate a lot of the problem. But that doesn’t always happen, especially when there’s some disappointment in the job being done. People seem afraid of conflict, and would often prefer to flee the situation than to have a potentially difficult discussion. I can understand that reasoning, but I can’t really respect it. You see, the majority of people will claim they’re leaving an agent because there’s some sort of problem with the work being done. But my experience has taught me the real reason most authors leave an agent is because “the agent hasn’t

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  • April 26, 2013

    What's the role of an agent in today's changing publishing world?

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    Someone sent me this question: “What role do agents have in today’s changing market? And I know you do a lot of work in the religious publishing scene — do agents work in that area as well?”

    Yes, I do a lot of work in the Christian market. Not exclusively — I work in both the general market as well as the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association). So yes, there are agents who both areas, though not many. The role of agents is changing, just as the role of publisher is changing. Most publishers, including most religious publishers, simply do the bulk of their business through agents. That is to say, most books are represented by a literary agent. Publishing houses rely on agents to do the initial weeding, so that the proposals being considered by acquisitions editors have already been vetted in some way. That’s a change that has come over the past ten or fifteen years — the dross has already been skimmed away. Publishers also expect agents to know contracts, to help make sure the author makes his or her deadline, and to keep the author on track with all the pieces that come with creating a book. 

    Authors should expect agents to know the bookselling market and have the relationships in place to get a proposal seen by the right people at publishing houses – something many beginning writers lack. Every author expects his or her agent to understand (and explain) publishing contracts, so the agent can protect you from making a bad decision – an important but often overlooked point, since the document you sign is a legal agreement that will govern the terms of your writing as long as it’s in print. And a good agent will know current publishing economics, so that he or she can negotiate a contract on your behalf that is in line with current market standards. The book world is

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  • April 23, 2013

    Before you post your book online…

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    A guest post from Holly Lorincz, assistant to Chip MacGregor

    Recently, I was forced given the opportunity to learn to master the art of uploading ebooks onto Smashwords and Amazon for this persistent Scottish agent I know. After extracting multiple promises that haggis or blood pudding would never be served at staff parties, I agreed.

    I can’t approach the simplest assignment without first reading at least seventeen reference books (the heftier the better), and yet, after all that research and putting my own book up for esale, I’ve really only learned one thing about self-publishing: marketing your ebook is a full time job. Selling it successfully? There’s magic involved and a lot of patient plodding, and messing around with algorithms. I know, I know, I shouldn’t use that word algorithm, since it just screams ‘first period math class.’ Sorry. Unless you’re going to hire a publicist, get used to it. Also, if I’m being totally honest, you may want to bypass the whole formatting and uploading issue, hire a professional, if you have a life away from your computer.

    Still here? Okay then. The following is a list of random ebook publishing and marketing tips that I’ve picked up from books, other self-publishers, and my own stumble down the publishing path. Some of it will be common sense and common practice, so just view it as a reminder.

    1. Remember those early beta-readers you sought out as you were finishing your book? Remember that one that drove you crazy, the one that only commented on dangling participles, improperly used pronouns and linguistic improbabilities?  If you haven’t burned that bridge, find that grammarian and ask him or her to read your book one last time, tasked with catching typos, specifically homonyms and homophones. (Because, you know, spell check silently chuckles when you use the phrase “his voice was a horse whisper.”)

    2. Decide if you are going to use KDP Select

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  • April 22, 2013

    Sandra on The Power of Personal Meetings

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    THE POWER OF A PERSONAL MEETING

    I haven’t traveled much in the last six months, but I’ve just returned from a three-day conference. Though I fully registered for it, I only attended two conference events, but my time there was incredibly valuable and enriching regardless.

    Aside from the three-hour-thaw-by-the-pool-mini-sabbatical I scheduled for myself on Friday afternoon before boarding the plane home, I spent every waking hour while there in pre-arranged meetings with editors and authors. In the end, when responding to questions about how my trip went, I heard myself say “I really enjoyed connecting with everyone!” And I today, I added several items to my task list newly motivated by an urge to help each of these people succeed in their roles.

    Sure, when I requested time together, I had a project in mind. But as usual, I found that holding “my” agenda a bit loosely, and taking the position of investigator vs. sales person always returned a rewarding and gratifying encounter that will begin, or enrich, a long-term relationship.

    There’s so much more to personal meetings than just “putting a face to a name.” When I meet an editor or other prospective associate in person, the encounter requires real listening. I’ve learned that more often than not, my “canned” speech goes out the window in favor of personal dialogue once an editor or prospective author and I start talking about whether what’s working well for them and how/if what they’re hoping to publish next aligns with the project(s) I’m interested in.

    A side perk of meeting in person is that, unlike with email, I must also practice the art of keeping the conversation going in both directions. I’ll admit, I’m still working on controlling my tendency to be so terribly interruptive – an inexcusable habit that I still give into when I’m especially enthused about something.

    As anonymous, and bottom-line, and impersonal as this business can sometimes feel,

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  • April 11, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Questions from Last Night’s GET PUBLISHED Teleseminar

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    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 andBarnes & Noble.

    Last night was our GET PUBLISHED teleseminar with Michael Hyatt. What a great time, talking business and answering questions! It was a blast.

    We weren’t able to get to some of the submitted questions, so I’ve gone ahead and answered them below. Would love your thoughts on what was discussed during the teleseminar, or what is talked about below.

    And don’t forget! We have a special opportunity for friends (that’s you!) of MacGregor Literary. 

    Michael Hyatt, former CEO and Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers (one of the largest publishers in the world), has recently released a comprehensive solution for authors called GET PUBLISHED. It’s a 21 session audio program, accessible online, that distills Michael’s 30+ years of publishing knowledge into a step-by-step guide to help authors get published and launch a successful career, even perhaps a bestseller!

    Michael is offering a special limited time discount on GET PUBLISHED. Not only can you save significantly on the program, you’ll also get access to several bonuses worth over $150. Bonuses include items such as Michael’s popular “How to Write a Winning Book Proposal” ebook and more.

    For details and to take advantage of this special offer, go to http://michaelhyatt.com/getpublishedoffer

    (Note: This discount offer is only available through April 17).

    Okay, on to those questions!

    Brooke asks: What makes an agent take a chance on a first-time author?

    When we fall in love with a fiction author’s story idea and writing, or when we see the potential of the book idea, writing, AND platform of a nonfiction author.

    Mark asks: What do you think about

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  • March 14, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Book Release Marketing Timeline

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    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 book on author marketing, The Extroverted Writerreleases March 15.

    In the months leading up to a book release, I oftentimes find authors doing one of two things. (1) They’re sitting at home, waiting for their edits to come in or waiting to see the cover art or waiting for the ARCs. Or (2) they’re panicking, because they know they should be doing SOMETHING. They just don’t know what.

    So at the request of one of our wonderful readers, here’s a snapshot of what you should be doing as you approach your book’s release. Remember! This isn’t set in stone, and because each marketing plan is different, there needs to be lots of flex room. Also, things are bound to happen to put you off course. But don’t worry about it. Stay flexible. Stay committed, and you’ll be fine.

    BOOK RELEASE TIMELINE (FOR PRINT BOOKS)

    6-8 months before release: Write up your marketing plan and compare it to that of your publisher. You want the two plans to build off one another as opposed to going in opposite or duplicate directions. For example, you may have plans to put a media kit together only to find out that your publisher will be doing that as well. In that case, you could simply ask them to send you 25 kits or so.

    6 months before release: Begin gathering your info. Your marketing plan may include hitting up blogs, speaking at schools or businesses, launching a new website, asking for reviewers, and more. Now is the time to begin research on those things, which can include Googling reader blogs, compiling a list of potential speaking opportunities, talking with

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  • March 12, 2013

    What's the most important thing to know about book marketing?

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    Someone wrote to ask, “What is the most important thing I need to know about marketing my book?”

    To me, the most important thing for you to grasp as an author is that you are responsible for marketing your book. Not the publicist. Not the marketing manager. Not even the publishing house. YOU.

    Think of it this way: Who has the most at stake with this book, you or the publisher? (You do.) Who is more passionate about it, you or the publisher? (You are.) Who knows the message best, you or the publisher? (You.) I think an author should work with his or her publisher’s marketing department as much as possible. Make yourself available. Say “yes” to everything they ask. Express appreciation every time they do something that helps market your book. But then go do everything as though it all depended on you, because it does. Whatever the publicist does for you is gravy. YOU are responsible for marketing your own book. Don’t leave it to some young college grad who has 17 other projects to market. 

    Someone else asked, “Since it seems like anyone can get a book published today through self-publishers, how do I make sure my book gets the needed exposure?”

    I’m one of those who thinks that many self-published books don’t really seem as if they are really “published.” They post their book on Amazon, then sit and watch it not sell. And most people who actually self-publish (that is, pay to have an ink-and-paper book, rather than just an ebook) lose money because they don’t know how to market and sell their own book. So if you want to really sell some copies, whether you are self-pubbed or published through a regular royalty-paying publisher, you’ve got to understand basic marketing principles. I suggest authors purchase some basic marketing books (such as a textbook from Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong, or Frances Brassington and

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  • March 11, 2013

    What is "voice" in writing?

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    We’re continuing our “ask an agent anything” series, where I’m trying to offer some short answers to your general publishing questions. If you’ve got a question you’ve always wanted to ask an agent, send it to me or leave it in the “comments” section. One reader wrote to ask, What is “voice” in writing? “

    Voice is the personality of the author, expressed through words on the page. When you write, your word choices, your phrasing and structure, your thinking and themes — they all help establish your personality as a writer. So the way I write is different from the way someone else writes — my personality comes through, and shows how I’m different and unique as a writer. (An example: Stephen King and William Faulkner both like long sentences, psychological implications, semicolons, and the use of the word “and” in their works… but nobody ever picked up a Stephen King novel and mistook it for a William Faulkner novel. Though they share some characteristics, each writer has his own personality, and that comes through on the page.) Of course, not every writing voice is good — just as not every singing voice is good. A great writer has a voice that is appealing and interesting.

    Similarly, another person asked, “How does a writer know when he has established a strong voice in his work?” 

    It takes time and effort. I’ve always thought a writer recognizes his or her own voice over time, so the more you write, the better you hear yourself in your words. My experience is that, as I write more and more, my personality becomes clear on the page. When we talk, your words don’t sound like mine. Your stories don’t sound like mine. Your personality is unique, and getting that to be clearly expressed on the page will help you define your voice. (So, for example, when I tell my story of being

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  • March 7, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Rejections Don’t Determine Your Worth as a Writer

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    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 book on author marketing, The Extroverted Writer, releases March 15.

    I usually post marketing and platform-building stuff, but today I’m gonna get all warm and fuzzy on you. Because, well…I think it’s high time for a pep talk.

    As an agent, I see lots and lots and LOTS of rejection on behalf of my authors. There are days when the rejections just seem to roll in, and the very relationships that I’d been counting on coming through for me don’t. So then I have to go to the author, explain the rejection, and try to help them through it.

    And here’s what I’ve noticed…too many times, authors look to editors and big publishing houses to validate their ability as writers.

    So when the rejections come in, it’s so common for authors to begin doubting and questioning and “oh, if I can just fix that one thing…tweak that one chapter…” I’ve seen this happen over and over, and you know what? I’M SICK OF IT.

    When you’re on my side of the desk, the picture is much bigger. Yes, there are lots of rejections…sometimes for good reason. But there are also AMAZING books that never get picked up. Blame it on timing, budget constraints, weird personal preferences, or a bad day at the office, but it’s true. There are great novels and book ideas that don’t receive offers. They don’t see that one “yes” that makes all of the rejections fizzle into nothingness. So for me to say that a string of rejections from editors means that there’s something wrong with my author or their writing or their ability would be to say there’s something “wrong”

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  • March 4, 2013

    When does an agent want to see a book proposal?

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    I’ve been trying to answer a backlog of questions writers have sent my way, so we’re doing some short-answer blog posts for a while. For example, one person asked, “At what point in the process does an agent want to see a book proposal? After the book is completed?”

    Most agents will look at a nonfiction book proposal before the book is completed, but after the author has figured out what he or she wants to say. That is, the author has figured out the question and the answer, and has tried to put some structure (in terms of an outline or table of contents) to the material. With a fiction proposal, most agents want to see a synopsis or overview, just to know what the basic story is, then the first ten to fifty pages, to see if the author can write. If the agent reads a portion and likes it, he or she will probably ask for the rest of the manuscript.

    Someone else asked, “I’ve been told the internet has killed nonfiction… Is nonfiction really dead? It seems like most of the questions you get have to do with fiction.”

    My wife was cooking an East Indian dish the other day, and needed a recipe. Where did she go? To a cookbook? Nope, she went online. I was looking for the answer to a port wine question yesterday. Did I look at one of my wine books? Nope, I went to the web. The internet has made basic information available on every topic to anyone with a computer. That puts the core of nonfiction at risk. I think this points to a major shift we’re seeing in publishing — away from much nonfiction in traditional print form. There will still be plenty of nonfiction that sees print (history, memoir, and much of the “literary” side of writing), but a lot of the how-to side is quickly shifting

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