Category : Career

  • February 6, 2015

    The Journey of my First Publishing Contract (A Guest Blog by Jill Lynn)

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    Jill Lynn HeadshotI’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

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  • December 4, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Steps to Create an Author Brand

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    literary agentAmanda 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.

    The past few Thursdays we’ve been talking about creating an author brand. The main points of the posts have been:

    1. Your books are not your brand. YOU are your brand. Your brand infuses your books and not the other way around.

    2. You can be the one to determine what your brand is.

    3. If you don’t determine your brand, others will do it for you…and you probably won’t like the result (after all, most of us want to be known for more than physical traits such as “blond” or “tall” or “old” or … you get the picture).

    We touched on a few of the questions that you need to ask in order to discover what kind of an author brand will work for you, such as:

    – What are my hobbies?

    – What is my personality? Am I sassy? Contemplative? Old-fashioned? Radical?

    – In what areas am I an expert? What are things that I know more of or do better than others?

    – What life experiences have I had that stand out?

    Once you’ve identified what kind of a brand you want to give yourself, how do you implement it? How do you go from being an author, to a brand?

    1. Look your brand. Let’s say that you have skills in refurbishing and decorating vintage pieces. Your fiction always tends to be set in vintage eras (or it focuses on characters who appreciate that style) and so you feel having a vintage brand will carry throughout your career. Now, you could go around

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  • November 20, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: How to Change Your Author Brand

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    Amanda LuedekeAmanda 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.

    Last week, we had some great discussion on author brand and how to get started with creating one. The driving idea behind the post was to think about who you are, your likes, interests, hobbies, experiences, etc. and to turn that into a brand. We will eventually talk about HOW to turn that into a brand, but in the meantime I want to address an issue that was raised by fellow literary agent…I don’t know if she wants to remain anonymous, so we’ll call her Agent Example.

    Agent Example said that she has suddenly realized she is being thought of as the “Picture Book Agent”…which really really really isn’t what you want if you’re hoping to make money at this any time soon. It’s like a career death sentence. Especially if you work in CBA.

    How does this happen?! How do you end up with an author brand that you don’t want?

    Remember, you give yourself a brand. You don’t sit back and wait for brand to happen. In Agent Example’s case, she probably wasn’t as aggressive as she could have been about her brand, and before she knew it, she was the picture book agent. Here’s how this works:

    1. When you are a person of interest, the very group that is interested in you will look for ways to differentiate you from others like you. So when there’s a panel of agents on stage, authors in the audience are looking for ways to label each one so that they can process things, tell others about the

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  • November 19, 2014

    ASK THE AGENT: How can I make a book signing successful?

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    I just had an author friend write to say, “I’ve been asked to do a book signing party at our local bookstore. It seems like most booksignings I’ve been part of were a disaster. Do you have any tips for making a book signing successful?”

    Anyone who has spent time in this industry has been to a dud of a book signing party. The author shows up, sits at a table by herself, and fidgets while a couple people wander by, ignoring her. Eventually an older woman hesitantly approaches, looking furtively around, and asks, “Hey… can you tell me where the ladies’ room is?”

    Nothing is as deflating to an author as throwing a party and having nobody show up. The fact is, if you want to do a book signing, the first rule is simple: Don’t rely on the bookseller to get people there. They might send out a flyer, or put it on the company website… or they might now. (I remember one A-level author who showed up with me for a book signing only to find the staff hadn’t been told, there was no signage, and her boxes of books were actually locked in the manager’s office, and he was away on vacation. True story.) So, like in everything else in marketing, don’t rely on someone else to do the work – YOU do it, and have a plan for succeeding. Some tips…

    1. Invite people. Again, don’t sit and wait for people to show up. Go out and invite them. Make it a party. Tell your family they need to show up. Personally invite all your friends – call them, send them notes, check back with them and get some commitments to be there. Focus on inviting some groups, since groups of people will make it feel like more of an event. (So invite your co-workers, your neighbors, the people at church, the people at the

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  • November 17, 2014

    ASK THE AGENT: How can I become a hybrid author?

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    Someone wrote to ask me, “How do you define a ‘hybrid’ author? (Isn’t it simply an author who is self-publishing but still has books with traditional publishers?) And do agents work with authors who are basically self-publishing?”

    I’m frequently asked about the notion of working with “hybrid authors” because I seem to be a bit in the minority– a literary agent who actually encourages his authors to become hybrids. But you see, I used to make my living as a writer, so I understand what it’s like to try and make a living creating words. And the changes in the industry that have taken place means there are new opportunities available to writers that were never available in the past.

    Let’s define our terms: A hybrid author is one who is self-publishing AND traditionally publishing. There are plenty of people who insist one method or the other is the “right” way to have a writing career these days – that you either “get an advance and publish your books with a legacy press and ignore the badly-edited self-published crud on Amazon,” OR you “self-publish your title via Amazon and Smashwords, and reject those money-grubbing publishers in New York who only want to enslave you as a midlist author.” Um… I tend to think there’s another way.

    A hybrid author gets the benefit of an occasional advance check, professional editing, great distribution, and access to marketing professionals from his or her publisher. PLUS there’s the benefit of having complete creative control, book price control, and the chance to do more titles that generate immediate earnings from his or her self-published titles.

    Of course, there’s also a down side. A hybrid author really has to set up his or her writing life as a small business, since everything from cover choices to copyeditor payments are the responsibility of the author. He or she has to stay up on trends – which

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  • November 13, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: Creating an Author Brand

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    Amanda LuedekeAmanda 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.

    In response to last week’s post on author brand, some of you admitted that you didn’t really know how to answer the question of “who am I?”

    This is one of the many questions that a company or individual will ask when on the hunt for a clear brand identity. They may also ask:

    “What comes to mind when hearing my name (or company name or product, etc)?”

    “What feelings do people have when thinking about my name/my company/my product?”

    “What do they associate with my name/company/product/etc.?”

    “What do I want them to feel or think or associate with my brand/company/name/etc?”

    Many companies will pay tens of thousands for answers to questions like these. They end up with lengthy research reports on their brand, the image it conveys, the climate of their client base, etc.

    But authors don’t usually have tens of thousands of dollars, do they?

    So let’s try a back door approach.

    EXAMPLES OF AGENT BRANDS

    You may think that agents are just agents. That we have no use for a brand, and that there isn’t really anything that defines us as individuals aside from the deals we do and the authors/genres we represent.

    But let me show you something…

    CHIP MACGREGOR

    If you’ve met or are familiar with our agency president, chances are you didn’t just think “agent” when reading his name.

    Instead, you probably thought of his Scottish heritage and penchant for wearing a kilt. You probably thought about how he is blunt and intimidating (things I’ve heard him described as), or how

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  • November 10, 2014

    What does a Good Agent/Author Relationship Look Like?

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    Someone wrote to ask, “Can you tell me what a good author/agent relationship should look like?”

    I can try. Keep in mind that there’s no “perfect agent style” that suits everyone. One writer needs an agent who is a strong editor-and-story-idea person, another writer needs an agent who is a contracts-and-negotiation person, and a third writer needs an agent who is counselor-and-chief-supporter. It’s why I always encourage authors to think carefully about what they need in a literary agent. I consider myself a good agent, having done this job for a long time, contracted a lot of books, and developed a good track record of success. But I’ll be the first to say I’m not the agent for everybody. My style doesn’t fit every author, nor can I provide everything each author needs. So sometimes I’ll meet a writer whose work I like, but we’ll both feel the vibe is wrong. We have to get along personally as well as professionally. Other times the author has expectations I know I can’t meet (such as wanting me to edit their entire manuscript). So finding a good agent is like finding a good friend — what works for you might not work for your neighbor.

    A good author/agent relationship is usually one in which expectations are clear, and the agent helps the author succeed in those areas they’ve decided to focus on. It might be story development, or editing and fine-tuning a manuscript, or support and encouragement, or career management, or contract advice, or… the list is as varied as authors want to make it. If you don’t really know what you need, you’ll find yourself just going with someone you like, or someone your friends like.

    Keep in mind that most working literary agents come from one of four backgrounds. They are either (1) a former editor, so they have strong words skills, or (2) a former writer, so they

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  • November 7, 2014

    Planning, Scheduling, and Doing Author Talks (a guest blog)

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    When my first book, Why I Left the Amish had been accepted for publication, one of my sisters said to me, “I can just imagine that when you get up in front of an audience, you will be in your element.”WILtA cover 2.indd

    My sister was right. My favorite way of interacting with people is in person. I get the feeling, as I’m standing in front of an audience, that I’ve lived my whole life to be at that place at that time.

    Had I lived out the life I was taught, I would definitely not be speaking in front of an audience. When I was growing up in an Amish community, I often heard the statement, “You just want attention.” And this was not a compliment. To “want attention” meant that I was not demure, humble, and submissive — all qualities of a “good” Amish girl. So hearing this was the equivalent of someone telling me that I was a bad girl.

    Suffice it to say that I have had to overcome a lot to be standing in front of any audience. And so I appreciate every one of them.
    My very first audience was huge — 160 people at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, Vermont. The person who introduced me said the only other audience they’ve ever had that was bigger was for Ambassador Galbraith.

    As I was listening to this introduction, I was just about to get stage fright. And right there, I had a stern talk with myself, “Saloma, you did not wait seventeen years to see your book in print to get the shakes now. You go out there and talk to the people who are waiting to hear what you have to say.”

    It worked. I did go out and talk to that crowd. And I’ve talked to 170 audiences since then.

    As all authors discover, much of the marketing of our books happens through

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  • October 24, 2014

    Being Open to Change in Your Writing Career (a guest blog)

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    My teen daughter’s swim coach has a list he gives his teams called The Habits of Mind. The point of using it in sports is to get each athlete to change their thinking and consider a new way to approach their sport. Coach is known for constantly telling his swimmers, “You need to change your thinking.” I could have used Coach’s admonishment three years ago when I was stubbornly waiting for the next contract to come along.

    The only option I could see was to get published through a legacy publisher again or to give up on publication. I didn’t want to think about doing it any other way. Considering the tough times the publishing industry was going through, I had pretty much set myself up for failure. So, even as several of my publishing friends were busy taking matters into their own hands by self-publishing, I refused to change my mind about any other publishing method beyond traditional publishing.

    To be fair, indie publishing hasn’t always been what it is now, so my reasons for waiting weren’t all bad. There were a few good pioneers self-publishing and doing it well, but there were enough poorly written works flooding the market that I had reason to pause and consider. Where my thinking was off was how I told people I would never go out on my own in lieu of traditional publishing, and you know the old saying about saying never.

    I finally let go of never and changed my thinking earlier this year when I began to see huge strides in the industry. Terms like hybrid and indie took hold and well-respected authors started going rogue, as they say. I started to wonder why, when I had the experience of two legacy books under my belt and three unpublished books waiting for an audience, was I sitting back and letting other authors have all the fun – and maybe

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  • September 15, 2014

    Ask the Agent: Which e-book publisher should I choose?

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    I’ve been one of those agents encouraging writers to consider becoming hybrid authors (that is, publishing with traditional publishers, as well as self-publishing some titles). That has brought me this question from several people: Which e-book publishers do I need to consider? 

    There are a number of choices for authors who want to indie-publish a book. Everybody tends to immediately think, “I’ll just post it myself on Amazon,” but we’ve seen countless error-filled books done on Amazon, so if you want to take a step forward, there are some options to consider. Of course, you need to know what you want in a publisher. For example, do you want to pay extra for marketing help? Does your non-fiction book need photos or maps in the text? Will you want the capability of adding an audio version of your novel? There are a bunch of choices, so let me suggest some places to consider checking out.

    1. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (you’ll find them at kdp.amazon.com). This can be a great choice, since it’s quick, easy, and fast. KDP will make sure your book is available on every Kindle and every computer or phone with the Kindle app, it allows you to be part of their unlimited lending program, and has some special features such as their “countdown” deal and their free book program. KDP pays you a royalty of 35% of the list price on most sales, with the opportunity of a 70% royalty if you follow some pricing guidelines. They pay monthly, and can do direct deposits. It’s a great way to go for many authors… but the big drawback is that they will have some Amazon-only restrictions. That means people who don’t own a Kindle won’t even be seeing your book. Still, KDP is great for reaching the Kindle crowd, which is roughly 60% of all ebook readers.

    2. Smashwords (www.smashwords.com). This is who we almost always recommend

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