Category : Publishing

  • chip-macgregor-square

    September 21, 2016

    What have you always wanted to ask an agent?


    I started this blog nearly ten years ago (we’re coming up on the ten year anniversary for this blog), as a way to simply answer the questions writers have about the process. Some people wanted to ask about writing, others about publishing, still others about marketing. Writers asked about careers, they asked about proposals, and they asked about contracts. Lately we’ve had a ton of people asking about indie publishing and working with Amazon to become a hybrid author.

    Over the next couple of months, I thought we’d do an “ask me anything” segment. So… what have you always wanted to ask a literary agent? I’ve got a backlog of questions, but I thought I’d begin by simply asking the people who read this blog a question: If you could sit with me over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine somewhere, and ask anything you wanted, what would you want to know? What would you like to chat about?

    Drop a question in the “comments” section below, or send me an email at chip (at) macgregorliterary(dot)com, and I’ll try to offer short answers to your questions. You can ask about books, about proposals, about writing, career planning, marketing, platforms, proposals, or anything else. If I don’t know an answer, I’ll ask someone who does. If they don’t know, I’ll just make up something that sounds good. (Or maybe I’ll ask someone else.)

    So there you have it — October is gong to be “ask the agent” month. Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled questions yearning to breath free. I’ll do my best to get you a good response.


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  • chip-macgregor-square

    April 8, 2016

    Ask the Agent: What if my novel doesn’t fit?


    All through the month of April we’re doing “Ask the Agent” — your chance to ask a literary agent the question you’ve always wanted to ask. Last week someone sent in this question: “If your manuscript isn’t the right fit for the agents you query, should you move on to the next book or self-publish? How do you decide if your project is good enough to go out if it doesn’t have a gatekeeper stamp of approval?”

    Your first question suggests there is a right-or-wrong answer. The fact is, if your manuscript isn’t the right fit for the agents you query, perhaps you need to query other agents. Or perhaps you need to tweak your proposal. (I’m not trying to be cruel here, but if a bunch of people have seen your proposal and all rejected it, then it’s always possible the proposal simply needs some more work.) I just don’t see this as an either/or question.

    That said, I think your second question gets to the heart of the matter: How can a writer know if his or her proposal is ready to be shown to agents and editors? And the answer is no doubt, “By getting some experienced opinions.” Taking your proposal to a critique group can help, or taking it to a couple of experienced writer friends and asking them to suggest changes. Many conferences have workshops on how to create a good proposal, and most will give you a chance to talk with editors and agents about the proposal itself — not just to pitch it, but to refine it. All of those are good options. And, of course, if you need more help, there is always this fabulous book to peruse… Pitch-Book-Cover-cropped-2

    Okay, I’ll admit… I wrote it with longtime editor Holly Lorincz, and I love the topic. There are plenty of good books out there on “how to create a good proposal.” What’s unique

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  • chip-macgregor-square

    March 29, 2016

    Coming in April: “Ask the Agent”


    What is it you’ve always wanted to ask an agent? I mean, if you could sit down for a few minutes over a cup of coffee and ask a literary agent anything — about proposals, or writing, or marketing, or the process, or the economics of publishing, or anything else — what would you ask? 

    Here’s your chance. Starting April 1st, we’re going to take a month and just focus on the questions writers have for literary agents. What do you want to know? What do you need clarified? What is it you’ve always wanted to ask (or ask again)? I’ll be taking a slug of questions each day and offering my best response.

    So come join the conversation! Either go to the comments section below and drop in your question, or send me an email asking the question you’ve long wanted answered. I promise to try and get to all of them in the month of April. Looking forward to seeing what you send me.

    Don’t just sit there — ASK!



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  • amanda-square

    March 10, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: The Numbers Behind an Author Platform


    amanda-squareOK, nonfiction writers. You’ve heard it before. If you really want to impress an agent or a publisher, make sure you have three things: a great idea, great writing, and a great author platform.

    But more and more, platform is becoming THE way to secure a book deal.

    This is because while writing can be fixed or edited and the idea can be tweaked, platform has to happen organically.

    It can’t happen by chance. It can’t be bought. It’s about hard work over a period of time and it’s something that only the author can bring to the table.

    So what do impressive social media stats look like?

    Brace yourselves. Winter is coming.

    A decent nonfiction author platform has a handful of the following components:

    If you have a website or blog your monthly unique visitor count should be at least 30,000
    (a unique visitor number of 100,000 is likely to secure a book deal)

    If you have a Twitter account your followers should be at least 10,000 (and you should have stats that show considerable growth over the past six months)

    If you have a Facebook page you should have at least 8,000 likes (along with Insights that show your past and projected growth)

    If you’re a public speaker you should speak at least 30 times a year and you should shoot for a newsletter list of at least 10,000

    Publishing Is More Competitive Than Ever

    Needless to say, these numbers aren’t easy to achieve, and I’ve seen a number of authors who HAVE these numbers come away without a book deal.

    But on the flip side, I’ve seen authors with the bare minimum of the above components land a book deal because they also had great writing and a great idea.

    So yes. Platform is HUGE. It’s an absolute must if you write fiction. But never underestimate the power of strong, moving writing and a great,

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  • Brian

    November 20, 2015

    Can the Audiobook Save B&N?


    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about audiobooks. As Yasmine Askari reported on the Digital Book World last week, Barnes & Noble recently announced the launch of a Nook audiobooks app for iphone and ipad, as well as a new website to support the app with more than sixty thousand audio titles available to download without the purchase of a subscription. I’ll leave the prognosticating around whether or not this will be the magic bullet that saves Barnes & Noble from the same fate as Borders to smarter industry analysts. I’m more concerned with the audiobook as a product and it’s future in publishing.

    My first attempt to get into audiobooks revolved around my year and a half stint covering the Inland Northwest territory as a B2B salesperson calling on grocery stores from the eastern side of the Washington Cascades all the way to the Billings, Montana – a vast, beautiful, and relatively empty landscape. I would sometimes drive as much as six hours in between sales calls, this in the days before rental car stereos came with audio jacks and in a land with almost no local radio signals. It was dull. So, I tried to spice up the windshield time by bringing along one of those suitcase-sized collection of audiobook CDs.

    I couldn’t tell you the title or author of that book so many years later. What I can tell you is that I almost died listening to that book, lulled to sleep while driving a desolate Montana two-lane highway by the sultry voice of whomever was narrating. Like so many people, I walked away from the whole audiobook thing because of lack of convenience and a love of reading the actual text and fleshing out the characters with the voices my imagination created for them in my head. I figured that audiobooks were fine for older folks losing their sight, or for drivers that

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  • Brian

    November 6, 2015

    That Time of Year Again


    Publishing & Technology: That Time of Year Again

    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 @BRIANRTIBBETTSmk_thumb

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be taking a
    break from talking about either publishing or technology and instead focus on shamelessly plugging my favorite charity, the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC). This week the local Portland news-weekly Willamette Week and the IPRC, along with more than 140 other local Portland and Oregon charities kicked off their annual fundraising drive called Give!Guide 2015. If you’re local to the Portland area, Oregon, or the Pacific Northwest, consider taking a moment to look through the guide.

    Willamette Week has partnered with several local businesses and organizations to provide incentives and matching donation opportunities. Additionally, the IPRC has rounded up some great incentives from local publishers, authors, and editing services and the like. Check out the IPRC at their website or on facebook for additional opportunities to time your giving to land incentives like a free proposal evaluation from Chip MacGregor, a free developmental edit or manuscript evaluation from Lorincz Literary Service, book bundles and magazine subscriptions from Tin House and other local publishers, gift certificates to restaurants, wineries, and host of other area businesses, show tickets, and more.

    Please join me this year in supporting area charities in the arts, social justice, environmental services and cleanup, and a whole host of other causes.

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  • chip-macgregor-square

    October 15, 2015

    How does an acquisitions editor acquire books?


    Someone wrote with this question: “When someone is hired by a publishing house and allowed to acquire new books, are they trained or do they just ‘go and do’? Is this something they do individually or as part of a team?”

    An acquisitions editor has usually spent time with the company and has a feel for what he or she should be acquiring. Most are brought up through the system. They know if the company does well with historical novels, or if they like self-books, or if they struggle to sell memoir. So most ack editors know the list and the company culture — and yes, personal tastes will shape the books they bring in. If an editor likes thrillers, and is charged with building the list, you can pretty much expect his or her preferences will begin to be reflected in the books they’re doing. (Though not always — an editor at Harlequin is generally responsible for acquiring romantic novels, no matter how much she happens to like spec fiction… Again, knowing the corporate saga and culture is essential.) Editors shape houses. That’s the way it’s always been in publishing. So a publishing house that hires a bunch of new acquisitions people gets reshaped by the editors who work there.

    That said, few editors (just a handful of executive editors) have the authority to simply go acquire. The system looks like this:

    Step One is that the editor must like the presented idea. He or she works with the agent and author to sharpen the proposal and make it as strong as possible.

    In Step Two the idea is usually taken to the editorial team. In this meeting the merits of the book are discussed, several people read it, the team evaluates it, they determine if it fits the corporate identity, they explore other factors (such as “is this book too similar to one we did last season?” and

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  • Brian

    October 1, 2015

    Double Posting for a Negative Return


    Publishing & Technology: Double Posting for a Negative Return

    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 talking about using social media platforms to drive engagement with audience, a common misconception about posting duplicate content to LinkedIn, and the ramifications of doing so.

    Earlier this year LinkedIn opened up its long form publishing platform to all members (formerly it was only available to LinkedIn’s “influencers” – I’m still not entirely sure what the distinction meant). Almost immediately a flood of “fresh” content swamped the social media platform as a significant chunk of LinkIns 340-million strong user base rushed to repost identical copies of material they’d already posted on their company website or professional blog. Yes, several authors and prospective authors did so as well. This was a mistake for a variety of reasons.

    First off, the power of LinkedIn’s size as a platform naturally affords it a better ranking in search engine results for identical content (yes search engines can tell when identical content is posted on more than one site). Because the LinkedIn version of the identical post ranks higher than the original posting on the author’s site or blog, the search engine will naturally lower the rank of that other site or blog for all postings, regardless of content. Additionally, duplicate content sends a message to your already converted fans that you couldn’t be bothered to put together new content of value prior to re-engaging with them over social media. It’s considered a bad practice for a wide variety of other reasons, but we’ll save those for another post someday. Suffice it to say, that if you are going to spend time building your platform as an author try to make each effort a

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  • Brian

    September 24, 2015

    Permissionless Innovation


    Publishing & Technology: Permissionless Innovation

    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 talking about wattpad, the concept of permissionless innovation, and the ongoing expansion of the world of fanfiction. I have been fascinated with the world of fanfiction for a couple of years now. But it was a recent post from Jane Tappuni on the Publishing Technology blog and her application of Benedict Evans’s logic regarding the concept of permissionless innovation to her analysis of the success of Kindle and Wattpad, and specifically the following comment that got me interested in writing about this topic this week. Tappuni says:

    “Not only does the concept of ‘permissionless innovation’ explain the success of Kindle and Wattpad, it also explains why so many publishing-focused start-ups fail. While Wattpad has focused on being the network that hosts an entirely new form of content, many publishing start-ups instead want to take publishers’ content and put it on another platform. This makes them dependent on publishers who need to be convinced the start-up has the right business model, will take care of their content and will provide a financial return that’s comparable to a traditional retail sale before they hand over the right to sell their IP. Instead of innovating, they end up negotiating.”
    Having dabbled a bit in “publishing-focused start-ups” myself, I can tell you, with great sincerity, that the reluctance of publishers to license content for innovative methods of delivery is a major barrier to entry, and hence to innovation in the publishing world. A certain amount of caution regarding the undercutting of their primary come-to-market strategy is understandable. But, the degree to which traditional publishers have generally blocked the use of their IP from anyone hoping to legitimately

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  • Brian

    September 9, 2015

    The Argument for Metamedia


    Publishing & Technology: The Argument for Metamedia

    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 talking about the prematurely forecasted death of the codex and the emergence of “metamedia” and the “bibliographic” writer. I recently was afforded the opportunity to peruse an advance copy of Alexander Starre’s forthcoming title Metamedia: American Book Fictions and Literary Print Culture after Digitization due out this fall from the University of Iowa Press.

    In the book Starre examines a new phenomena in contemporary American literature, a rediscovering of the print book as an artistic medium in and of itself. Starre argues that this trend, as exemplified by a fusing of design and text, is a direct reaction to the proliferation of e-book readers and the ongoing conversation surrounding the digitization of reading.

    He looks at Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and other works, Jonathan Safran Foer’s books, and a variety of offerings from McSweeney’s, attempting to establish these works as metamedia for the way in which they challenge traditional notions of the way in which books (and authors) communicate with readers. He argues that these works are expanding on our ideas of the book, or the text, as a flat communicative device.

    Unfortunately, while Metamedia provides readers with an excellent investigation of what is at play (and in some ways at stake) in these works, it does little to advance its assertion that what is happening is truly a new development in the world of publishing. Except for the fact that these works may represent initial forays into metamedia territory for “serious” literature, they are no more revolutionary (or reactionary to the digital delivery of text) than the pop-up books you may have read as a child.

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