Category : Publishing

  • April 25, 2014

    If you could sit down for an after-dinner drink with an agent…

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    Okay, so all month I’ve been having readers send in questions they would ask if they could just sit down and be face to face with a literary agent. Here’s the most recent batch of questions I’ve received…

    Is it standard for most debut authors to have their manuscripts read by an outside copy-editor before submitting to a publisher? I’ve heard this is now common practice, but with the low advances publishers are now paying, it seems unfair to insist on the author funding the cost of an outside edit.

    I think it’s an exaggeration to say publishers “insist” on an outside copyedit. The author is best protected when a manuscript comes in clean, since they’re not relying on some minimum wage, entry-level person to do the edit. And as the business has gotten harder, publishers seem to be doing less editing, and they love having their costs cut by having manuscripts come in as clean as possible. But I don’t believe we can say that’s any sort of official standard, except perhaps with mom-and-pop ebook publishers who can’t afford a good copy editor.

    When it comes to book proposals, should a narrative non-fiction proposal follow the rules for a novel, or for a nonfiction book?

    It’s a nonfiction book, so it should basically follow a nonfiction proposal format. But this is a great question, since narrative nonfiction is really a blend of the two. Still, you’ll find the core of a narrative book is telling a nonfiction story, so stick with the nonfiction proposal model.

    I’ve seen contradicting opinions on using blog content in books… If I write a blog, does a publisher consider all content “published,” and therefore unusable in a future book?

    If you write a blog post and stick it on your website, it has, in fact, been “published.” But no, that doesn’t preclude you from using that material in a future book, assuming you own

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  • April 24, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: The Future of Publishing According to Me

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    2014AmandaAmanda 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.

    After spending the past number of weeks talking (and hailing) hybrid publishing (see posts here, here, here, and here), it begs a very important question…

    What is the future of publishing?

    As self-publishing continues to grow, as authors are offered more options to achieve their dreams, as traditional publishers continue to try and crack the e-publishing code, as start-ups focus primarily on e- and POD- publishing for their books, and as America’s reading habits evolve…where does that leave us?

    Where does that leave the book? The bookstore? The library?

    I’m no Predictor of the Future (well, okay, maybe I am a little), but I do have a few thoughts about where we’re headed…and I think it’s going to be an interesting ride.

    1. Eventually, it’s going to be fairly easy to get successful self-published books into bookstores. Someone, somewhere, with a ton of the right connections and enough money to give it a go is going to start a company that finds the best of the best in the self-publishing world and then presents those books to the buyers at B&N, Books-A-Million, Wal-Mart, etc. And because of this individual’s reputation and their product list of tried-and-true Amazon bestsellers, those stores are going to buy. And they’re going to shelve those books. This means that successful indie authors won’t ever have to partner with a publisher again to get their books into stores. They’ll just have to partner with an indie-friendly distributor. It‘s worth saying that there ARE venues that promise this kind of service,
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  • April 22, 2014

    If you could sit down to dinner with a literary agent…

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    Imagine this: You get to sit down to have dinner with the literary agent of your choosing. You can ask anything you want? So… what would you ask? I’ve been taking the entire month of April to let people send in the questions they’ve always wanted to ask a literary agent. Recent questions include…

    A friend of mine in our writers’ group asked me if she can be sued if she uses the name of a real town — i.e., Witch Hazel, Oregon, in her novel. Is that true?

    Okay– I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not giving you legal advice. If you need legal advice, go talk to an attorney. What you’re getting is my take as an agent… Sued? For what? No. You can be sued for defaming or libeling someone, but you can’t be sued for simply using the name of a town. Does she think she can’t say, “The plane flew to New York”? (But thanks for the call-out to my hometown of Witch Hazel!)

    It’s my understanding that publishers will often pay higher royalties for hardcover than softcover. Why is this?

    It’s true. The standard book contracts pays 10% of the retail price on the first 5000 hardcopies sold, 12.5% on the next 5000 copies, and 15% thereafter. A trade paper pays a flat 7.5%. The cost of the hardcover is higher, the production costs are a bit higher, people are willing to pay more, so there is more money to divide. Thus the royalties are higher. (By the way, most CBA publishers pay on net contracts, so it’s a bit different.)

    I’d like to know what goes on in a Pub Board meeting, and why does it sometimes take so long for them to make a decision on a book?

    The pub board is where a decision is made to publish or not publish a book. Usually it includes the editor presenting the project,

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  • April 21, 2014

    Sitting down for a martini with a literary agent…

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    Okay, so this month I’ve invited writers to send in the question they’d love to ask a literary agent, if only they could sit down over, say, a martini. Pretend the two of you are face to face. Relax. Take a deep breath. What would you ask? Here are several of the questions people sent…

    When a contract with a publisher expires, I assume the rights to the book revert back to the author. Does the author then have to get a new cover, ISBN number, etc, to put the book out as an e-book or POD? And is that something usually covered in a contract?

    Great question. First, with most publishing contracts these days, the rights do NOT automatically revert to the author when the book goes out of print. Instead, the book stays with that publisher as an e-book, and they’ll want to keep it as long as it’s selling some copies and making money. Even when it’s not, you’ll have to write and request your rights back. So let’s say the publisher does indeed revert rights — all that gets reverted to you is your text. You’ll need to create a new cover (unless it’s the rare instance where you own the cover art or can buy it from the publisher), get a new ISBN (since this is a new edition of the book), probably re-edit the book (to make it clean and up to date), then load it to Amazon, Smashwords, etc. And no, your current publishing contract won’t say much of anything about this process, other than to offer some confusing, multi-step process to try and get your rights back.

    Is there any chance of getting an agent when you DON’T have a platform? And if I’m just starting, how long do you feel it will take for me to build a platform?

    Sure there is. It’s just easier when you have a platform —

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  • April 18, 2014

    If you could sit and have a beer with a literary agent…

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    I’m taking the month of April and letting people send in ANY question they have about writing and publishing. If you could sit down for an hour over a beer with a literary agent, and ask him anything you wanted, what would you want to know? Here are questions I’ve been sent recently…

    If I am offered a contract, should I then get an agent?

    That depends on the situation. Although I’m a longtime literary agent, I’m not an agent-evangelist, insisting everyone needs an agent. So think about the big picture here — your agent didn’t discuss the idea with you, or help you sharpen your proposal, or introduce you to editors, or send it out to publishers, or offer career advice. Once you’re offered a contract, the agent is going to step into it and earn a commission. So here’s my thinking… IF the agent can bring value, in terms of doing a great negotiation, and improving the contract & terms, and getting involved in the marketing, and stepping in to help with dramatic and foreign rights, and offering advice for your future, then it might be worthwhile to have an agent step in. But if all he’s going to do is say “yes” to the offer, it may not be worth paying him 15%. Consider talking with a good contract evaluation service, which might only charge a couple hundred dollars. (Or you might talk with an attorney, but be careful — they tend to charge by the six-minute increment and want to keep the clock running, so it can be expensive. Maybe consider this option if you’ve got something complex, such as a series offer or a movie deal.) But don’t sign with someone just so you can have the honor of saying, “I have an agent!”

    If my novel is women’s fiction, is it best to target a female agent?

    It’s best to target an agent who

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  • April 17, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: How to Become a Hybrid Author, Part 2

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    2014AmandaAmanda 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 continued our discussion on Hybrid Authors by looking at what steps published authors should take if they want to become one. But what if you aren’t yet traditionally published? What’s the protocol for a self-published author who wants to cross over into the traditional publishing market?

    HOW SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS BECOME HYBRIDS

    There is lots and lots of advice out there as to how to hit it big time with self-publishing. From everything I’ve read, I’d say the common threads are:

    • Romance sells best
    • Covers matter
    • $0.99 to $2.99 is the ideal price range for ebooks
    • Authors do better when they start with a bang and release a bunch of books simultaneously
    • Authors keep their readers coming back by releasing new content every few months
    • Marketing becomes an author’s day job

    So there you have it. The super duper condensed version. I won’t waste your time by expanding on what can be found plastered all over author sites and forums, but instead I’ll focus on what’s appealing to publishers and what would make them bite.

    Publishers in New York aren’t easily impressed by sales numbers. Many times they say that ebook or self-pubbed sales aren’t large enough to warrant traditional publication. And then when those sales numbers are large and impressive, you many times find them saying that the author has fully tapped the market and there is nothing more the publisher could do.

    So there seems to be this sweet spot…this magical sales range that is large enough to warrant publisher attention and small enough

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  • April 16, 2014

    If I could sit down with a literary agent and ask ANYTHING…

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    This month I’m trying to get to all the questions people say they’d like to ask an agent, if they could just sit down with him or her for a few minutes and talk privately. Here are questions that people have asked recently…

    Are the low costs of e-books costing authors money?

    Sure. I mean, if a retailer sells a book for $20, the royalty is higher than if he sells it for $10. The average e-book is way down — many below $5, and often you’ll see specials where the books are 99 cents. That doesn’t leave much for an author. The argument is made that people want a deal, and the low prices build readership by finding readers who will spend a dollar or two without even thinking about it. And I think that’s true, to a point… but at some point, we have educated readers that they only need to spend a buck or two on a book, and that means the only people really making money are the bestselling authors.

    I’m thinking of setting up my own publishing company. Do I need to trademark or copyright the company? Is there a contract template for doing that?

    If you’re just doing it to keep the words “Amazon Publishing” off your title page, then create a business name, do a search to make sure the name & domain are available and not a copyright infringement, and start a bank account in the name of the company. In some states you’ll have to register the company name, so check your local laws, or talk with an attorney if you have greater legal questions. (For the record, I’m not an attorney, nor am I giving you legal advice.) You can find people willing to sell you all sorts of business-planning materials, but most authors who start their own companies simply start them online with a domain name and a bank

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  • April 11, 2014

    Sitting down with a literary agent over a cappuccino…

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    So I happen to be sitting at Cafe Greco in North Beach (the Italian section of downtown San Francisco), and thought this was the perfect place to suggest authors sit down to have a cappuccino and talk. This month we’re just inviting authors to send the question they’ve always wanted to ask a literary agent, if only they could be face to face. I’ve been sent a bunch of questions, and I’m trying to get to each of them…

    I know many agents are looking for an author to have a big “platform.” What does a big platform look like to you?

    A platform is a number. You speak? How many people do you speak to over the course of a year? You write a column? What’s your readership? You’re on radio? What’s your listenership? You blog? How many hits do you get? You do a column? How many people read your work? You belong to organizations? How many people are you connected to? All of those are numbers — just add up the numbers, and you’ll know how big your platform is. The bigger the number, the happier a publisher is going to be. More important is how many people you actually have some sort of relationship with — that is, how many of those folks do you speak to or consider an acquaintance? Can you suggest what percentage might actually purchase a book? A small publisher may be happy with a platform of ten to twenty thousand. A medium sized published may be looking for a platform that is at least forty to sixty thousand. A large publisher may not be all that interested if your platform is less than 100,000 — possibly not interested if your platform is less than 250,000, depending on the project.

    Is it pointless to seek publication before launching a blog? I have substantial Facebook and growing Twitter followings, but haven’t launched my

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  • March 27, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: How the Movie “UNDERWORLD” Perfectly Portrays Today’s Publishing World

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    2014Amanda

    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.

     

    Have you seen Underworld?

    In this rather awesome and yet equally terrible movie, the vampires and the lycans are at odds (duh). The vampires are snooty and privileged and literally SLEEPING UNDERGROUND while the world passes them by.  The lycans, on the other hand, are rule-breakers and thugs. They do what they want and for obvious reasons don’t get along with the vamps.

    There is a particularly attractive lycan-hunting vampire girl who is tracking a lowly human that most women my age would know as Ben from Felicity. Ben from Felicity is being followed by lycans, and the hot vamp chick wants to know why. The truth is soon revealed when the lycans bite Ben from Felicity and turn him. By now the hot vampire lady is torn! She has grown to care for Ben from Felicity, and how can she love her enemy?! She eventually decides to get over herself and love him anyway, but then he is once again injured and near death (wimp). She does what she has been warned not to do and bites him, thus making him both vampire and lycan–a creation that is rumored to be stronger than either species. They call him a hybrid. Eventually, he is able to bring about peace between the clans.

    So why do I bring this up? Why walk you through the ENTIRE movie premise?

    Because it adequately portrays what’s happening in publishing, and every time I hear the term “hybrid author,” I immediately think of Ben from Felicity (and I wanted you to

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  • March 25, 2014

    And the biggest successes of 2013 were…

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    In this week’s issue of Publisher’s Weekly, they have their annual report on the bestsellers of the previous year. I always enjoy reading about it and discussing it with authors, because nothing gives perspective more than a number. You see, authors like to talk about having books “sell a million copies,” and I’ve frequently seen proposals in which writers make wild promises about selling millions, since the audience for a particular topic is considered huge. (“There are 246 million people with dandruff in this country! There’s a ginormous market for my book on hair care!”)

    But then every spring PW releases its report, and everyone gets a dose of reality. How many hardcover novels sold a million copies in 2013? One — Dan Brown’s Inferno. How many hardcover nonfiction books sold a million copies? Three — Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus and two of the “Duck Commander” books, Happy, Happy, Happy and Si-Cology. How many trade paper books sold a million copies? One — and it was released decades ago… F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. There was only one mass market book that sold a million copies, proving that this formerly big-number format is quickly dying off, replaced by digital books — George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.

    On the children’s side, there were a handful of books that passed the million mark. Jeff Kinney’s Hard Luck: Diary of a Wimpy Kid #8 sold more than three million copies, and was the biggest seller in one format of any book sold last year. But Veronica Roth’s Allegiant and Insurgent, Rick Riordan’s The House of Hades, and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars also hit the mark. (Two other titles probably did: Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief and Dr. Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham, but the numbers are unclear because of several factors.) Still, when it comes to print copies, that means there were

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