Category : Thursdays with Amanda

  • April 28, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda / Ask the Agent: Using Wattpad as an Author

    by

    1We’re doing an Ask the Agent series, and a few questions came in about Wattpad, the website that allows writers to upload and share their work with readers. Authors can upload entire books at once or they can upload chapters or scenes. Many use Wattpad to get feedback from readers as they write, and some have developed pretty substantial followings.

    Here are the questions that our reader asked:

    Does sharing your work through Wattpad count as self-publishing? Does it affect how traditional publishers see you?

    Can Wattpad be a powerful marketing tool or a risky way to show unpolished work?

    If you use it, would it be better to share just the first part of your book (so that you don’t give away the ending) or the whole thing?

    I remember a few years ago, my friend was seeing some really great success on a HarperCollins-owned website called InkPop. The site was similar to Wattpad in that you’d upload your chapters as you wrote them and get feedback. The only difference was that InkPop promised that if you got high enough in the ranks, a literary agent would review your work. They even had an example of a young writer who had received a really nice HarperCollins book contract—all because of this website.

    My friend climbed really high really fast. Within a month, she was near the top and received the coveted agent review. But in all truth, her book was hastily written. She had uploaded the first bit on a whim, not thinking it would go over. And then it did. And then she felt pressured to hit the agent review deadline. So even though I was giving her feedback as she went, she didn’t have time to polish and perfect. She put forth a manuscript that wasn’t her best.

    Now, I think if any writer is on the cusp of getting a free review with an agent, he/she

    Continue Reading "Thursdays with Amanda / Ask the Agent: Using Wattpad as an Author"
  • March 24, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: John Steinbeck and the Art of Writing What You Know

    by

    amanda-squareHis grave site wasn’t even under the Steinbeck name—that’s the first thing I noticed.

    The stone obelisk that loomed over John Steinbeck’s final resting place read Hamilton.

    And rightly so. Hamilton was his mother’s name. A name that, I was told, meant many generations of wealth and affluence in the town of Salinas. And yet to me, a fan of Steinbeck, it felt unfair.

    Below the obelisk was a large concrete slab inlaid with small, flat markers. Most of the markers were for various Hamiltons … one passing as recently as ten years go. But the one on the middle right was for John.

    It held his name. His birth year and death. That’s it.

    I’m one of those people who loves to visit old towns and walk in the footsteps of those long gone. I’ve visited James Dean’s gravesite and walked his family’s farm, and I’ve seen where F. Scott Fitzgerald was born, where he lived when he first got word that his book was going to be published, and where his daughter was born.

    And it’s always funny how real it all gets when you see where these famous names came from and how those places and people shaped who they became.

    For Steinbeck, I was blown away by this. In Salinas and in Monterey and in the strawberry farms and cattle ranches in between it was as if I had been transported to a world that I’d always thought of as fake. And yet there it was—real. It had been modernized, no doubt. But the winding coastal streets, the smell of the ocean, the whales in the bay, the ever-pressing presence of the distant ranges surrounding the Salinas Valley were real. And they were just as he had written.

    This is the power of writing what you know. Of taking something that may seem ordinary and plain and boring to you and describing it with such

    Continue Reading "Thursdays with Amanda: John Steinbeck and the Art of Writing What You Know"
  • March 10, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: The Numbers Behind an Author Platform

    by

    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,

    Continue Reading "Thursdays with Amanda: The Numbers Behind an Author Platform"
  • February 25, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: Writers Put Way Too Much Pressure on Themselves

    by

    amanda-squareI think we can all agree that writing is an art form. It’s an expression of oneself, after all. And it requires a huge dose of raw talent—talent that must be refined and polished and crafted over years of study and dedication.

    It’s no different than dance or ceramics or music or any of the other arts. And sure, sometimes it comes in the form of a nonfiction how-to manuscript. Sometimes it comes in the form of a news article. Sometimes it comes in the form of a really splendidly written Tweet. But it’s still art even if it’s not hanging in a gallery or moving people to tears.

    And yet have you ever noticed how, unlike other artists, most writers put pressure on their art?

    They expect it to be profitable.

    They expect it to advance them.

    They expect it to become that side business that eventually becomes a full time business.

    And if they don’t see any of these things happen, they wonder why they’re writing at all.

    Why do we do this? Why do many writers (especially newer ones) look at their art like they would investments or a retirement plan? Why do we expect so much out of it?

    You don’t see this with most dancers. Most dancers are happy to dance and for them that happiness is enough. They don’t have this need to justify their art by pointing toward how much money it’s made them or how often they’ve been part of a professional production. They just like to dance. And dancing is enough.

    You also don’t see this mentality with many potters, either. Sure, they might have Etsy shops and they set up tables at farmer’s markets, but they don’t look at their yearly earnings and question whether or not thy should be doing what they’re doing. They just do it because they love it.

    So why are writers different? Why do we

    Continue Reading "Thursdays with Amanda: Writers Put Way Too Much Pressure on Themselves"
  • February 18, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: The Biggest Marketing Mistake an Author Can Make

    by

    amanda-squareI see author after author spend money and time on book trailers and digital shorts and book-specific websites and splash pages and artwork and bookmarks and THINGS.

    I see them show off their items proudly, because LOOK HOW PRETTY! THIS CLICKY PEN WILL CERTAINLY GET PEOPLE TO BUY MY BOOK!

    But then there the box of pens sits. And sure, they hand out a few pens at conferences and at church or school or work, but they’ve still got a lot of pens. Not to mention that book trailer no one has viewed. That website that no one has gone to. That $0.99 ebook that was sure to entice people to buy the real book.

    Why does this happen?

    No one knows about the clicky pens. Or the book trailer. Or the website. Or the super cheap ebook.

    And the reason no one knows about these things is also the very reason that this person’s book isn’t selling. It’s not because the book is bad or boring or poorly written. It’s because no one knows it exists.

    Let’s look at a really specific example …

    You have a book. Yay! You hope people buy the book. I mean you’ve told your friends and family, right? That should count for SOMETHING.

    But the numbers come back. Sales are bad. You haven’t even cracked 2,000 copies sold. You need to make a change. You start thinking about what it is that could make the book more enticing.

    Eureka! You’re a great baker! Why don’t you put some free recipes together that coincide?

    You slap the recipes online and sit back and wait just like you did before. Your numbers come from your publisher again. You STILL haven’t broken the 2,000 mark, and in fact, you’re going in the opposite direction because of all those  returns!!

    Why is this happening?!

    You check your recipe downloads. It’s pitiful. Clearly not helping. But how do

    Continue Reading "Thursdays with Amanda: The Biggest Marketing Mistake an Author Can Make"
  • February 11, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: Don’t Believe These 5 Book Marketing Lies

    by

    amanda-squareThere is nothing easy about book marketing. Nothing.

    And yet if you spend any amount of time reading up on it, you’re led to believe otherwise. Posts and comments tend to make it sound like a walk in the park. Do this and that and that again and voila! You’re golden.

    And then you try this and that and that again and … crickets.

    It’s easy to feel as though everyone has marketing figured out, while you struggle to get a single follow, a single like, a single comment on your blog.

    Because it’s so hard, we naturally come up with reasons as to why it’s not working for us … or why it is working for others. And we come up with excuses as to why we haven’t put together a strategy or why we haven’t called in some marketing favors.

    These excuses and reasonings may make us feel better, but we’re ultimately hurting ourselves and our careers. A book that isn’t marketed certainly isn’t going to sell itself. But a book that is marketed has a fighting chance.

    And a chance is all it takes.

    5 BOOK MARKETING LIES as gleaned from the writers I’ve talked to over the years.

    1. I don’t have a book, so I have nothing to market.

    I hear this all the time from aspiring writers, and while I can see their point, the issue here is that they aren’t viewing the situation properly. If being an author is a career and your books are your business, then that makes readers your customers. The best way to connect with customers isn’t to throw marketing and sales pitches at them, saying buy, buy, BUY! Rather, it’s the relationship that counts in the long run. So if you’re an aspiring historical fiction author, hang out with the historical fiction readers! If you’re an aspiring romantic comedy writer, find where the lovers of all things chick

    Continue Reading "Thursdays with Amanda: Don’t Believe These 5 Book Marketing Lies"
  • February 4, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: My Path to Becoming an Agent

    by

    1People are always curious to know how I became an agent. Did I intern with the agency? Did I apply and get hired? Did I go through a special program? Did Chip owe my dad a favor?

    I’ve found there are usually two paths to working in publishing. One involves getting the right internships and then getting hired on afterward. And the other involves just being in the right place at the right time.

    For me it all happened at a book signing in 2008. In Fort Wayne, Indiana.

    I was working as an admissions counselor at a university at which Chip was a visiting professor. My friend, who happened to be a student there, kept telling me about this big-time agent who was on campus and how I needed to meet him. But despite it being a very small school, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who he was.

    (Now, in retrospect, I had seen him around campus. But with his goatee and pressed dress shirt, I assumed he was the new Pastoral Ministries prof.)

    So the only way to be sure to meet him, my friend decided, was to trap him at an author book signing.

    At the time, I (ashamedly) didn’t recognize the name of the author holding the book signing (Chip tells me it was Lisa Samson), and I honestly didn’t know very much about Chip or the role of an agent. But I DID know that my friend had told me he was epic. And that he had worked with Britney Spears’s mom. Which, let’s be honest, was enough to get me really wanting this to happen.

    I mean, what else could come of it than me being Brit Brit’s bestie?

    So, off we went. We walked in to the store; my friend located Chip; and then I took a breath, walked up, and introduced myself.

    He said something sarcastic.

    I said

    Continue Reading "Thursdays with Amanda: My Path to Becoming an Agent"
  • January 28, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: Your Website Is Your Baby

    by

    amanda-squareAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. She used to post on this blog every Thursday, but then things got busy and she had to prioritize. So she took a break. Amanda is smart. Be like Amanda.

    There’s one thing I’ve noticed about expectant moms these days (and no, this isn’t a post about pregnancy or motherhood)…Moms will spend weeks visiting various hospitals in their area, looking for the perfect match for their needs and expectations. They consider everything from doctor availability to space to freebies to distance from home to overall comfort level. They weigh each item against the other until a clear winner emerges.

    It makes sense when you think about how important having a baby is.

    But what if I told you that they do the same thing when purchasing a stroller or crib or carseat? What if I told you that moms these days tend to turn every babygear decision into an extensive list of pros and cons?

    Agents and editors frequently mention the need for a professional webpage, website, or blog. But one of the most common mistakes authors (and people in general) make when venturing into a relationship with a web designer is that they don’t view their career as their baby. They fail to ask questions. They fail to vet those that they hire and truly understand what they’re signing up (and paying!) for.

    So, before enlisting some Joe Schmoe designer to do your website, present him with these five questions:

    1. Can you show me examples of your previous work? Just like every author writes with a unique voice, every artist creates with a unique point of view. So before you ever consider hiring anyone to do design work for you, you must connect with their artwork. Ask to see samples (because what you see is oftentimes what you’ll get). If you like what you see, then you may have a
    Continue Reading "Thursdays with Amanda: Your Website Is Your Baby"