Category : Uncategorized

  • chip-macgregor-square

    November 24, 2015

    What do I need to know about agents?

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    Someone wrote to ask, “With all the changes in publishing these days, what do I really need to know about agents?” Let me offer a dozen thoughts…

    1. Do your homework before selecting an agent. DON’T sign up with somebody just because they say Questions Book Coverthey’re an agent and they want to represent you. I know that’s a temptation, but this is a professional relationship. Would you go to a guy’s office for your health problems just because he claims to be a doctor? Ask around. Check him out. This is the biggest mistake people make with agents, in my view. This past year at ACFW you could toss a rock in the air and when it came down it would most likely hit somebody claiming to be an “agent.” Um… these guys are going to be taking your ideas and helping you sign legal agreements regarding them. Don’t take that lightly.

    2. Be wary of any agent who charges a fee or advertises what the charge is to work with them. That’s a total violation of the guidelines for the Association of Author Representatives (and, in fact, those agents wouldn’t be allowed as members of AAR). There are a couple fairly successful agents in CBA who do that. It’s unethical, and authors should stay away, if they want to keep from being scammed. On the other hand, I was VERY glad to have someone write and tell me that “Steve Laube is my agent and he’s good.” Don’t we all get tired of people sort of beating around the bush, telling us one person is bad and another is good, but never mentioning names? The fact is, Steve IS good. So is Bryan Norman at Alive, as well as Janet Grant and Wendy Lawton and Rachelle Gardner and Natasha Kern and Greg Daniel and Karen Solem and Greg Johnson and Andrea Heinecke and Robert Wolgemuth and Sandra Bishop and Amanda

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  • Brian

    October 29, 2015

    And for an Additional Fee, We’ll Build a Machine to Read it for You as Well

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    Publishing & Technology: And for an Additional Fee, We’ll Build a Machine to Read it for You as Well

    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 machine learning, curated content, and discoverability. This week in Digital Book World Yasmine Askari reported on the launch of Canadian company Intellogo and their machine-learning based software’s potential applications in the publishing industry. According to the article, the new software will use machine learning to help publishers compare manuscript submissions with their current and back catalogs as well as using consumers read lists to custom tailor offerings by reader preference.

    As anyone who has struggled to find good comps for a potential project can attest, this might be a fantastic new tool for editors in evaluating potential projects. Then again, it might be another step toward the automation of already tenuous positions. Regardless, it’s sure to help further maximize profitability forecasting, erroneous or otherwise.

    What seems far more chilling is the idea that machine learning can use algorithms to mine our preferences and customize what we see as available for purchase. Discoverability is the core of successful book marketing. Using machine learning, tweaked as it will inevitably be to showcase content that is most likely to drive sales, will inevitably narrow the titles presented to readers rather than expanding it. And, If this argument seems a little too familiar, refresh yourself with another look at Mike Shatzkin’s oft referred to post Do ebook consumers love bestsellers, or does it just look that way? In which he argues that commerce (as expressed through a variety of factors) and not consumer preference, is the primary driving force behind the continuing success of best sellers, in terms of discoverability.

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  • marie-p

    October 14, 2015

    Literary Jetpacks for All!

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    Publishing & Technology: Literary Jetpacks for All!
    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literarystock-photo-jetpack-businessman-in-flight-271332893. 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 innovation, “publishing’s jetpack,” and the Dutch “Renew the Book” competition. If you are of a certain age and inclination, then you probably remember eyeing Jean-Luc Picard’s Kindle-like reading device with understandable envy. You may have even been pleasantly surprised to see that one piece of twenty-fourth century technology appear at the beginning of the twenty-first century. But would you really call the advent of the e-reader a revolution in the way books are used and enjoyed? Setting aside the incredible leaps in technology that it’s taken us to get to the age of the smartphone, tablet, and e-reader, it’s still difficult to see the ability to read digital text as “publishing’s jetpack.”

    As Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives, Edward Nawotka reports in an editorial in this month’s edition of his newsletter, something more disruptive, more pillar-shaking, may be on the way if the Dutch Publishers Association’s “Renew the Book” project yields the results that it has the potential to. Five companies are about to relocate to Amsterdam for forty days and forty nights of non-stop innovation. In the end, the winner will take home a prize of 15,000 Euros. Let’s hope they actually create something akin to a literary jetpack with that money. I for one am ready to take to the literary skies. For more information on the contest and the participating startups check out this article on the Dutch News website, or renewthebook.com

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  • chip-macgregor-square

    October 10, 2015

    An unsung hero

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    Unsung heroes are all around us.

    Look at you and I, with our publishing contracts, rubbing shoulders with famous writers at glamorous conferences, and agents who know their business and find promise in us. People look up to us as heroes. We have the best jobs in the world!

    Heroes also feed the poor, teach the less fortunate, and enable those with special needs to live fulfilling lives. If you do those tidbits of selflessness and many other acts of kindness, yes, you’re a hero.

    My brother is an unsung hero. A pastor of a small church, he took your stories and reference books and used them to teach his assembly. He has no book contracts, no glamor, no rise in fame. He served his congregations for a higher calling, and asked for nothing. He fed the poor. He cared for the weak. He taught his family morals and to love others.

    Now, he’s dying.

    Late stage IV melanoma. He’s 37, with a wife and three children under 13. He has but a few months to live, and with cutting edge treatment, perhaps a year. But it’s spreading too fast.

    I humbly ask that you consider using your giftedness to, in some small way, encourage and bless my brother. You would help bear the burden of someone who would be embarrassed and probably mortified if he knew I were writing this because he, in his words, always wanted the spotlight to shine on Jesus alone.

    If you’re interested in sending a book or a note of encouragement, a text or video message, email me at prleavell@gmail.com and I can send you his information.

    Francis Chan, Randy Alcorn, and many others have been a huge encouragement to him this week. Here’s your chance to be a hero to one of the good guys.

    Follow his story here: Christopher Leavell

     

    And here: Go Fund Me

     

    ==========================

    Peter Leavell, a 2007

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  • brick green no smile b:w

    August 12, 2015

    Editing for Authors: Part 4b, The Great and Powerful Style Sheet

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    brick green no smile b:wWelcome back to my series on editing for authors. Last week, I started to talk about the role of a style sheet in the editing process, specifically the story and character-related elements. This week, we’re looking at the craft and style-related elements of a style sheet, as well as how to use a style sheet to focus your editing.

    As I said last week, style sheets are largely descriptive rather than prescriptive– in other words, your style sheet is based on the writing voice/habits that are already in evidence in your manuscript. When you’ve finished a draft of a manuscript and are ready to start editing, you want to look at your manuscript and determine which conventions you’ve used most often and which ones you want to define your voice, and build your style sheet accordingly, adding entries addressing usage, punctuation, spelling, style, and formatting questions that will arise as you edit your manuscript.

    For example, if you hyphenated a word the first three or four times you used it (“birth-mother”), you would probably make the hyphenated version an entry on your style sheet, the idea being that you will use that entry as a reference by which to determine that you will alter any subsequent uses of that word where you didn’t hyphenate it. If, however, you hyphenated it the first time but then used it seven more times in the first three chapters without hyphenating it, you’d probably want to let the majority dictate your style-sheet entry, and use the non-hyphenated version as the rule to be followed on your style sheet, since, again, the goal of a style sheet is to define the elements of your style that are already in evidence in your writing and your voice so that you can ensure that they are reflected in your whole manuscript, since precious few of us write with perfect consistency throughout a 75,000-word manuscript. Use this

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  • brick green no smile b:w

    August 10, 2015

    I’m a Writer Because I Write

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    A writing friend sent me this question: “Are you a writer because of your distinctive ideas, the volume of material you produce, or because of a call or skill or gift?”

    None of the above. I’m a writer because I write. It’s my venue for sharing truth and beauty and all that is important to me. It’s how I express myself. My friend Rebecca is a singer because she puts herself into her songwriting and musical performance. My buddy Brad is a doctor because that’s how he connects to the world and shares himself and his abilities. Maybe that constitutes a calling — it’s certainly a gift. But I’ve always seen books and words as a reflection of who I am. Some of us have to write, the way others have to sing or run or paint or speak or run or lead. With me, words tend to pour out.

    The thing that doesn’t get talked about very much is the fact that not everybody can be a writer, and few of us can ever be great writers. I’m all for writing conferences, because I often get to meet and encourage diamonds in the rough. And I’m a big supporter of mentor/protégé relationships because they allow an experienced person to share with an inexperienced person. But I’ve come to believe there’s a limit to the talent that can be shared. I believe I can make a writer better, but I’m not convinced I can ever make a writer great — some people just have the gift. Some people can paint, some people can sing, some people can dance – we can write.

    Occasionally I come across a writer whose talent is enormous, and it usually leaves me in TomRobbingsawe. I love that. At a conference this past weekend, I had a chance to host a salon with one of my favorite writers, Tom Robbins — an author whom many believe

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  • brick green no smile b:w

    August 5, 2015

    Editing for Authors: Part 4a, Meet the Style Sheet

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    brick green no smile b:wContinuing my series on editing for authors, I’m talking today and next week about the role of a style sheet in the editing process and why a good style sheet can be an author-editor’s best friend.

    To better understand the value of a style sheet, let’s consider first the earmarks of a well-edited manuscript. Compared to an unedited manuscript (or one that has merely been proofed for typos), the following is usually true of an edited manuscript:

    • The voice has been refined
    • Plot clarity has been improved
    • Story universe is more clearly defined
    • Pacing is more consistent
    • Syntax is tighter/cleaner
    • Word choice is more effective

    Some of these qualities are dependent on the author’s experience/writing skill– it generally takes a more practiced ear to pick up on and critique things like sentence structure, weak word choice, or inconsistent pacing. Others, however, are virtually entirely dependent on good record-keeping and a disciplined adherence to the established norms– plot and character details are vivid at first because the author wrote them that way, but they stay sharp and clear in the reader’s mind because the author kept track of and stuck to the initial rules he made for that universe/character. An author’s voice is most effective when it is consistent and clear throughout rather than weakened by distractingly inconsistent usage, punctuation, spelling, or grammar. That’s where a style sheet comes in.

    What is a style sheet?

    Think of a style sheet as a reference tool written especially for and tailored specifically to your manuscript. Remember the APA or MLA reference books/handouts your teachers in high school or college gave you and expected you to use when writing your papers? If a teacher wanted your paper in APA style, you consulted your APA style manual to determine whether or not to use an oxford comma, how to format a quotation, which spelling of “cancelled” to use, etc. A style sheet (and don’t be

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  • brick green no smile b:w

    July 29, 2015

    Editing for Authors: Part 3, Turning on the Editing Eye

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    brick green no smile b:wWelcome back to my series on editing for authors. This week, I’m talking more about ways to develop the right perspective for editing.

    I wrote last week about the difference between the up-close-and-personal nature of the writing perspective and the more objective, big-picture mindset needed to be an effective editor. Obviously, it can be difficult to approach your own work objectively, especially if you have strong emotional ties to the material, and as I said last week, time is the best way to gain that emotional and intellectual distance from your work– you’re much more likely to see the weaknesses in your work after letting the initial writer-high die down.

    But what if you still struggle with objective, big-picture thinking even after letting your manuscript sit for days/weeks/months?  How much time should you let pass, realistically, in the hope that you’ll wake up one day with a completely different perspective on your work? Truth be told, some authors will always struggle with finding the right perspective from which to edit their work, no matter how much time passes, but the good news is that there are other ways to help train yourself to approach your work like an editor rather than a writer.

    Cleanse Your Palate.

    If you have any experience on the fine dining scene, you’ve probably had meals at which a palate-cleanser was served between courses– a beverage or a sorbet intended to rid your mouth of any lingering flavors from one course before another was served so that the next course wasn’t “tainted” by leftover, clashing flavors. Obviously, if you waited a day between courses, all traces of one course would disappear from your mouth before you tasted the next one, but a palate-cleanser lets you enjoy the flavors of two dissimilar courses to the fullest without having to spread your meal out over three days. In the same way, you can cleanse your editorial “palate” by

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  • brick green no smile b:w

    July 21, 2015

    Editing for Authors: Part 2, Perspective and How to Find it

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    brick green no smile b:wContinuing my series on being your own editor, I’m talking today about the importance of the right perspective when editing your own work, specifically the role that time plays in your editorial success.

    Writing is an up-close-and-personal business. You live and breath your story while you’re writing it, spending hours with your characters while thinking about and planning your story, talking about it with friends and family or your writing group, and then when it’s time to write, your creation appears on the page literally seconds after you conceive it– writing is, in essence, a largely improvised art form. Even if you know the general direction your story is going to take, even if you plan out all the names and scenes in advance, the truth is that when the time comes to put words on paper, you’re making it up as you go along. The words that come into your head are the ones you put down on paper; that’s the only way anything ever gets written. If I sat here and waited to write my blog post until I knew every word I was going to say in exactly the order I was going to say it from beginning to end, I would die before I started a single sentence– that’s not how writing works, and many writers’ favorite thing about writing is the instantly measurable nature of it– “I wrote 1000 words today!” But while that stream-of-consciousness creation is great for getting words on the page, it’s not so good for editing.

    Editing is a process in which the majority of your decisions are made on a comparative basis— this line isn’t as clear as the rest of the paragraph; this scene’s pacing is slow compared to the rest of the chapter; this character/plotline is less developed than this other one, etc. To be an effective editor, you have to train yourself to take one or

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  • brick green no smile b:w

    July 14, 2015

    Editing for Authors: Part 1, The Importance of Being an Editor

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    brick green no smile b:wWelcome back to my Tuesday blog on craft! I’m starting a new series this week in response to several questions that have come in from authors over the past couple of months on the subject of editing your own work. If you’ve spent any amount of time on this blog in the past (or read any resource on getting published, or attended pretty much any class on writing), you know the importance of submitting a clean manuscript to an agent or editor. “One chance to make a first impression,” “These people work with words for a living,” “We’re looking for a reason to say no–” you’ve heard all the warnings, and you would never submit pages without having thoroughly proofread them, right? The problem many authors have is that they equate “proofreading” with “editing,” and while proofreading is certainly an important part of the editing process, your manuscript usually needs a lot more than just a proofreading to be ready to submit for consideration by an agent or an editor.

    “But I’m a writer, not an editor!” Obviously, writing and editing are not identical tasks, and the skill sets needed to perform each one well differ enough that some authors have a really hard time putting on that “editor hat” beyond a basic proofread for punctuation and spelling typos. Some people don’t have a great eye for editing, while others flat-out just don’t like the process, and many don’t trust themselves to see their own story realistically after being so close to it throughout the writing process. I understand that it can be hard to switch gears from neck-deep-in-the-middle-of-the-action author mode to cool-and-detached objective editor mode, but as many excuses as there are for not being an editor of your own work, there are a lot more arguments in favor of developing your editorial skills.

    “Can’t I just pay someone to do that?” Sure, there are plenty of great editing

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