Category : Questions from Beginners

  • February 15, 2016

    What does a writer need to know about marketing?

    by

    In today’s publishing market, there are a handful of things I think every author needs to know about marketing. These are all things you can think through, and though none of this is going to be earth-shattering or terribly “new” to you (my guess is you’ve heard much of this before), sometimes we can think about choosing certain marketing strategies or ideas, then lose track of the bigger picture. Or we assume the publisher is going to take care of things, when in fact they’re busy worrying about the new 50 Shades novel they’ve just released, and they’re waiting for YOU to market your own book. So let me offer a big-picture look at marketing your book in today’s environment…
    First, you have to know yourself. What are your strengths at marketing? What do you do best? What is your message? How do you define your brand? What are the elements of marketing you  love to do? The fact is, if you know your core competencies, know what you do well and what you’re comfortable with, you’re ahead of most authors who are just trying ideas they’ve heard from others. So think back through your history, and make a list of the areas where you were good and comfortable and successful with your marketing. What are the resources you have available to you? Next, make a list of the opportunities you know you’ll have — the people, places, organizations, media, and venues you know you’ll be able to count on.
    Second, you have to know your weaknesses. What are the typical problems you have with marketing? What are your struggles? What do you NOT enjoy? What are the roadblocks you face? (Hint: often these include lack of money, lack of time, and lack of expertise.) As you think through the problem areas, you’re trying to clarify both the strengths and the weaknesses, the resources and the roadblocks that are
    Continue Reading "What does a writer need to know about marketing?"
  • November 2, 2015

    Ask the Agent: How do I approach someone at a conference? (and other questions)

    by

    I’ve been trying to catch up on all the questions people have sent in, so let me share a handful of queries: “When speaking with an editor at a conference, what is the best way to approach the allotted 15 minutes? Do I focus on the editor and the titles she’s worked on? Do I focus on my novel? Do I bring a one sheet?”

    The best way to approach your time at an editorial appointment is to do some research and practice. Pitch Book CoverCheck to make sure the editor you’re meeting actually acquires books in your genre. Find out what you can about the editor’s likes and dislikes. Then practice what you’re going to say — sharing your name, your book idea, the conflict, theme, genre,and hook. Be clear and succinct, and rehearse your talk out loud, so you know what it feels like to say the words. Be ready to engage in dialogue with the editor. Dress professionally, and bring some words to show them (many like a one-sheet; I prefer the first five pages). In my view, the focus of a successful editorial appointment is your book, so think through how to talk about your book in an engaging way without sounding like just another pitch.

    Another person wrote to ask, “Should I pay more attention to a literary agent’s list of authors they represent, or to their agency’s list of authors? In other words, if a Big Deal Agency has bestselling authors, how much does that mean if the agent I’m talking to doesn’t represent any of those writers?”

    That’s an interesting question, since every agency tries to promote their bestselling authors. I was at Alive Communications when we represented the Left Behind series that sold 70 million copies worldwide — and while I didn’t have much of anything to do with that series, I certainly mentioned that we represented it when I was a young

    Continue Reading "Ask the Agent: How do I approach someone at a conference? (and other questions)"
  • April 29, 2015

    How to Ruin a Book at the Last Minute: Part 5, The Bait and Switch Ending

    by

    brick green no smile b:wI’m nearing the end of my series on how to write great endings, and am talking briefly today about one of the most frustrating types of endings to read, for an agent, editor, or any other reader, the “bait and switch” ending, particularly in terms of the tone of a story.

    I’ve talked several times throughout this series about the importance of being fair to your reader in your endings– that you satisfy their sense of justice, that you’ve laid some groundwork for any surprises, etc.– yet I’m constantly surprised by the number of manuscripts I read that end in a way that is completely dissimilar to the tone/story universe/set of expectations the author has spent the entire preceding manuscript establishing. If you’ve spent 200 pages developing a nice, sweet, wholesome romance, don’t try to get all depressing and cynical at the end. If your comedic cozy mystery stayed on mostly “safe” ground for the first 3/4ths of the book, don’t turn it into a chilling, violent crime novel at the end. If you spent the majority of a book developing deeper themes and a more literary voice, don’t just slap a conventional romance ending onto it and call it a day.

    I want a book to end with the same “flavor” that compelled me to follow the story through to completion. It’s as if someone ordered a mint-chocolate-chip ice cream cone but the soda jerk decided to put a dollop of lemon sorbet at the bottom– even if the lemon sorbet is good, it’s not what the customer was expecting, and it’s not going to compare favorably to the mint-chocolate-chip, coming as it does when they’re not expecting it and have their mouth all set for something completely different.

    There are a number of reasons this happens, even to experienced authors. First, writing is largely a solitary profession. Even if you have a critique partner/group to bounce ideas off

    Continue Reading "How to Ruin a Book at the Last Minute: Part 5, The Bait and Switch Ending"
  • March 2, 2015

    It's "Ask an Agent" time!

    by

    I’ve got a new book coming out very soon — How can I find an agent? (and 101 other questions asked by writers). In celebration of that, I thought we’d take the month of March and just answer the agent questions you’ve got. So if there’s something you’ve always wanted to run by a literary agent, this is your chance. Drop a note in the “comments” section, or send me an email at Chip (at) MacGregor Literary (dot) com. I’ll try to get to as many questions as I can. So let’s get started with some of the questions people have already sent in…

    A friend wrote to say, “I’ve noticed that agents at conferences will list several genres they’re interested in, but rarely see any specifications about the exact type of books that interest them. I write YA – can I pitch them ANY YA novel?”

     

    The conference often asks agents to briefly list what we’re looking for. They usually don’t give us room to offer a lot of detail. So, for example, I represent romance novels, but there are some areas of romance I don’t really work with (paranormal, for example). There’s no method for offering much beyond a quick description, so I’m always happy to talk with any romance writer who stops by, and will try to help or steer him or her in the right direction, if I can. From my perspective, if an agent says he or she represents YA, then set up an appointment to go talk through your project and ask questions.

     

    This came in on my Facebook page: “How do I get what’s in my head onto paper in a way that will grab the reader’s attention?”

     

    Great voice… and that’s easier said than done. I’ve never been sure if we can teach an author how to have great voice. We can help writers improve, help them use better

    Continue Reading "It's "Ask an Agent" time!"
  • February 26, 2015

    Thursdays with Amanda: Is Your Nonfiction Book Idea Viable?

    by

    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.

    When I first met Chip, we were working at a college (me in admissions and he as a visiting professor). I had a BA in writing and a love for books, so naturally, I pitched him some ideas. I mean, why not?!

    I’ll never forget his reaction to the only nonfiction book I ever ran by him…

    Now mind you, I had this GREAT book idea. I was in the midst of planning my wedding, and I was super inspired by this strong desire I had to make my wedding feel like me. What did that mean? It meant embracing the traditions that fit, while ignoring the ones that didn’t–and replacing them with things that were more Amanda & Tad and less standard wedding.

    This whole concept exploded in my mind. I mean, what if you have two sports-lovers getting married?! They could plan their wedding around a particular sports event and have a reception in which they serve wings and beer while watching the game! Or what if the couple is really into theatre? They could do a murder mystery reception that is super interactive and even includes clues from the invitations and programs!

    I went crazy. I started jotting things down and obsessing and then one day I casually pitched my wedding planning book idea to Chip. (And when I say casually I mean totally on the fly…you may as well envision us walking through campus and me dropping this bomb on him. Poor guy.)

    And you know what he said?

    He said no.

    He said

    Continue Reading "Thursdays with Amanda: Is Your Nonfiction Book Idea Viable?"
  • February 19, 2015

    Thursday with Amanda: Which Comes First? A Book Deal or Platform? (FICTION)

    by

    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 the journey of publishing, what is the typical order of events? Does an author come out with a book first? Or do they develop a platform first?

    I think many of us in the industry see this as an easy question to answer.

    For fiction, the book comes first.

    For nonfiction, the platform.

    But it never fails that I’ll inevitably run into authors who either don’t understand this, don’t agree, or flat out don’t fit the mold. So here is some insight into the fiction side of this topic:

    WHAT COMES FIRST FOR FICTION? A BOOK DEAL OR PLATFORM?

    If you’ve ever tried to build a platform for your fiction career without actually having a novel, you’ll find it’s near-impossible. I mean, what do you blog about? What do you Tweet? You don’t have characters anyone knows, you don’t have product to push, and you certainly don’t have much reason to share when your next draft is done or when you’ve had a 10k writing marathon.

    Marketing your fiction career without a product is HARD. So that’s why the general rule is that the book comes first, then the platform.

    BUT! there are always exceptions to the rule. For fiction, a huge exception would be an author who has found an audience not for their fiction writing, but for some other hobby or focus. Let’s say Trina writes fiction. But she also bakes. She has a recipe blog with a decent following. So in a sense, Trina has a platform and this platform will actually help her

    Continue Reading "Thursday with Amanda: Which Comes First? A Book Deal or Platform? (FICTION)"
  • November 10, 2014

    What does a Good Agent/Author Relationship Look Like?

    by

    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

    Continue Reading "What does a Good Agent/Author Relationship Look Like?"
  • July 28, 2014

    Ask the Agent: How long should it take to hear from an agent?

    by

    Someone wrote to ask, “When is it appropriate to inquire on the status of a submission to an editor or agent? I sent something in to an agent four months ago, but have yet to hear. How long should it take?”

    Every agent has his or her own system. I try to get to submissions once every other week, but sometimes I go four or five weeks between looking. And that’s just for a quick look — if I like something, I have to read it through, and that means I could have it for a month or two before I can give the author a firm response. In my experience, most agents would like to have two or three months to consider a proposal before they render a “yes” or “no.” During busy times (like Christmas, summer vacation, and stints in rehab), it may take longer. So if you sent a project to an agent four months ago, and she hasn’t responded to you, it might be appropriate just to drop a friendly note — something like, “Hello, I’m just checking back with you on that proposal I sent you a few months back. I was wondering if you’ve had a chance to look it over yet, and if there’s anything more you need. I know you’re busy, so thanks very much for giving it your consideration.” No need to whine, beg, or wheedle. Just check in, and be polite.

    On a related note, one writer sent me a note to complain that an agent hadn’t responded to his proposal in a year… but when I checked with that author, he noted that he’d never actually met the agent, nor had he queried via email or letter. In other words, he had just sent in a proposal cold. And that leads me to ask,“Where is it written that an agent must respond to you just because you

    Continue Reading "Ask the Agent: How long should it take to hear from an agent?"
  • July 14, 2014

    Ask the Agent: "If I already have an offer, do I need an agent?"

    by

    Someone wrote me to say, “I was just offered a contract on my novel. Since I don’t have an agent, should I seek one at this point? Would it be better to have the agent simply review the contract for a fee?”

    There’s quite a debate about this issue. I know several agents who would say, “If you already have an offer — call me!” I mean, they’d be happy to get 15% for a deal they’ve done no work on. But I have some doubts about the value in that type of situation. Let’s say you got a contract offer featuring a $10,000 advance. If the agent steps in, he or she takes $1500. Is the value of their work worth that? You can ask a contract service to review your contract for around $500. (But be careful… there are good and bad authors, good and bad agents, and good and bad contract review services. Make sure to ask questions, so you get someone who knows what they’re doing and has done it before.) A contract service won’t negotiate for you or improve the deal — they simply evaluate and report back to you. So if you have a bunch to negotiate this may not be your best choice.

    You can also talk with an intellectual property rights attorney, but be cautious — they’re generally paid by the increment, usually by the six-minute increment for every phone call, email, conversation, or reading you ask them to do. It can add up fast. A good attorney can certainly help, and should be able to strengthen the contract. But in my experience you want to be careful who you’re working with — I’ve had too many situations where the goal of the attorney seemed to be nothing more than to keep the clock moving (though expect some attorney to come onto the comments to claim that never happens). The longer it

    Continue Reading "Ask the Agent: "If I already have an offer, do I need an agent?""
  • June 2, 2014

    What should I ask a prospective agent?

    by

    A friend wrote to say, “You’ve said several times that an author should ask a prospective agent some questions in order to get to know him (or her). I’m going to a conference in a couple months — what sort of questions should I ask?”

    I’ve talked about this question a couple of times, and I think the answer keeps changing as the industry evolves. Here are some thoughts to get you started…

    -How long have you been doing this?
    -How many contracts have you negotiated for authors?
    -Who do you represent?
    -What publishing houses have you worked with in the past year?
    -Which editorial personnel have you done deals with?
    -How many deals have you done in the past year?
    -What sort of authors and projects do you represent?
    -What do you like to read? (Ask for titles.)
    -Can you give me a couple book titles you sold that you loved?
    -Can you give me a couple book ideas you sold that you loved?
    -Do you offer editorial input to authors?
    -How often will we be in touch?
    -What would you say are your best skills?
    -What’s unique about your agency?
    -What percentage do you earn on a book deal?
    -Are there any hidden fees or charges? Any up-front costs?
    -Do you charge back your expenses?
    -How do you handle legal or accounting issues?
    -In what ways do you get involved in marketing?
    -Have you ever worked in publishing or done any editing or writing?
    -How do you approach career planning?
    -Do you work by yourself?
    -Are you full time?
    -Are you a member of AAR?
    -How long have you been in business?
    -How many people work at your agency?
    -About how many books do you contract in a year?
    -Will you be handling my work, or will someone else?
    -What are your expectations of me as a client?
    -Can you help me if I want to self-publish?
    -How

    Continue Reading "What should I ask a prospective agent?"
12345...10...Last