• June 19, 2015

    The Ten Things NOT to do on Social Media (a guest blog)

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    For today’s “Top Ten” list, we present The Top TEN Things NOT to do on Social Media when it comes to Marketing your book:

    1. Tweet: Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book NOW. #buymybook #buyitnow #buyitordie It always amazes me how much you can threat a person in 140 characters or less. People generally don’t respond well to threats. It’s just a fact.
    2. Twitter Party etiquette: Don’t show up at someone else’s Twitter party and start throwing in links to your book on Amazon, hashtag: #justincaseyouwantedtoBUYmyBOOK — That’s the equivalent of wearing your wedding dress to someone else’s wedding. Hello?
    1. Facebook Book Cover Tag: This is when authors gets so excited about their new book, that they tag everyone they know on the cover pic of their book. Which makes their cover show up on all their friends’ Facebook pages. Don’t. Do. It. Not if you want you keep your friends, anyway.
    2. Facebook Private Message each of your 3001 friends: Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy it NOW! That’s spam and you risk being kicked off Facebook. Then you’ll have 0 friends. Don’t do it. Twitter messaging is similar. Don’t PM all your followers. There’s nothing “private” or personal about a copy/pasted message.
    3. Instagram photos of your book over and over and over again. From different angles with hashtags that run so long, one could sprain a finger from scrolling. No one shops on Instagram. You can’t click on links (outside your tag under your profile name.) Keep it fun. Keep it light. Invite, don’t swamp, readers and then walk away.
    4. Pinterest: Ummm… Does anyone even use Pinterest anymore? Just curious.
    5. Snapchat: This probably applies to Young Adult authors, but Snapchat is a fun way to share your story. Not your BUYmyBOOK story when each chapter starts out BuyMyBook, Buy it NOW. You’re much better off engaging your readers on SnapChat as you. Your real life
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  • Brian

    June 17, 2015

    Publishing & Technology: Open Source Publishing – The Future?

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    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 discussing free distribution as a marketing strategy and applying the concept of open publishing to literary and genre publishing.

    While making a recent decision regarding which tech conferences I might attend this summer, I found myself reading Cory Doctorow’s bio on the O’Reilly Media SolidCon – Internet of Things conference website. Doctorow will be a featured speaker at the conference and will, no doubt, be wearing his “technology activist” hat during this appearance in San Francisco later this month. Doctorow has a very popular blog and scores of tech publishing credits to his name. For an example of his writing about technology and the internet go to his recent post on internet utopianism on craphound.com.

    What struck me while reading Doctorow’s bio, however, was the following statement: “His novels…are published by Tor Books and simultaneously released on the Internet under Creative Commons licenses that encourage their re-use and sharing, a move that increases his sales by enlisting his readers to help promote his work.”

    I don’t have access to Doctorow’s sales figures, so I can neither confirm nor deny the claim that this marketing strategy effectively “increases sales.” But, it is an interesting concept. One that almost seems to embrace the intended legacy of the Google Books project, the PWYW (pay what you want) pricing philosophy, and the idea of open source, while taking content marketing to a completely deeper level. I would love to know more about his interaction with Tor surrounding the creation of this marketing strategy and what (if any) concessions Doctorow had to make to get them onboard. It’s challenging to argue against free or low-cost access to content as an audience building

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  • June 17, 2015

    Craft for a Conference: Part 4, The “Why?” of a Writing Sample

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    brick green no smile b:wWelcome back to my series on crafting effective pieces for use at a conference. Today, I’m discussing the value of bringing a writing sample with you to a conference and how to make sure it represents you effectively.

    Like I said the first week of the series, there isn’t one hard-and-fast rule as to what you should bring to your editor and agent meetings at a conference. Some editors are happy to glance through a full proposal, some agents love to see a one-sheet on your project, and some people don’t want to look at anything on paper, preferring to hear you talk about your project and ask you questions instead. NONE of us wants to leave with a big stack of papers, and word is starting to get around that it’s increasingly difficult to get us to leave with any printed materials you bring us, so the practice of authors carrying around their sample chapters or first 50 pages or, heaven forbid, their full manuscript, has become much less common at conferences.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad fewer authors are trying to send me home with ten extra pounds of paper, but I have been disappointed, on many occasions, when meeting with an author who’s done a good job of hooking me with their story or concept through their one-sheet or pitch, to ask if the author has a writing sample with him and be met with a blank, slightly panicked stare and the stammered apology, “I– I didn’t know– I’ve heard you don’t want– I don’t have–” by which they mean, “No, I don’t have a writing sample, either because I didn’t expect to get this far, or because I’ve been told not to bring a big stack of paper to a meeting like this, or because I thought you would only be interested in hearing about my platform, and now I’m having a heart attack

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  • June 15, 2015

    What happens if Family Christian Stores goes away?

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    An earthquake hit CBA this past week. You may not have noticed it, since the news was buried on the back pages, but if you’re an author who sells into the Christian market, it’s going to affect you — possibly in a huge way.

    If you haven’t heard, Family Christian Stores (FCS), the largest Christian bookstore chain and easily the largest seller of religious books and merchandise, is in trouble and has filed for Chapter 11 to reorganize their debt. They have 266 stores, did $230-million in business last year, and are facing a real crisis. They are in debt $127-million, much of that in store leases and rents. They owe publishers about $14-million, nearly that much to card-and-gift vendors, and even more to consignment companies. So the owner, Richard Jackson and his team, made a bid to creditors to keep the company in business. (If you don’t know about any of this, you can read about it in an earlier blog post that I wrote here.)

    Jackson is a difficult guy to root for among authors, since he and his partners own FCS, but they also loaned money to the company and have been trying to repurchase the company for a lower price, paying themselves back but cutting out many of the publishers and vendors who are owed huge sums. Another group submitted a higher bid, but  that group, Gordon Brothers and Hilco Merchant Services, exist only to take over the locations, liquidate all the assets, and close up the stores. All the employees would lose their jobs, all the stores would eventually shutter, and, most significantly for authors, all the books would be sold without any money making its way back to authors. The books and other products would be considered surplus inventory to be sold as quickly as possible, with the money used to pay off the largest lenders (Credit Suisse holds $34-million of secured

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  • June 12, 2015

    The Danger of Over-Editing (a guest post from Gail Gaymer Martin)

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    One of the plights of a novelist or writer is wanting to perfect your work so completely that you can’t move forward. I’ve known numerous authors who’ve never completed a novel because they continue to rework the first three chapters until they literally take the life from it. Though editing is necessary to create a story that moves forward with every page and every paragraph, over-editing can be destructive by adding too much unneeded description or pages of dialogue that becomes chitchat. Cutting too much causes a novel to become bare bones as it loses reality, emotion, and depth. So what can you do? This is the question I was asked by a reader who follows my Writing Fiction blog.

    The question:
    Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed! I’ve written my beginning over and over again. I have even gotten to 15,000 words but keep getting frustrated. How do you move on without going back and constantly editing? I am a perfectionist but that seems to be hindering me in my writing. Any tips?

    My response:
    Over-editing can hinder a writer’s progress and allow someone with talent to fail finishing a book. A novelist’s voice is important. Readers come to know the tone and rhythm of your writing and connect with it. When you strip the bones raw or pile on needless fat, you’ve changed your style and voice and readers can disconnect.

    Editing is needed to make the book the best it can be, but being too close to it, you will reach a point where you lose judgment and end up doing more damage than good. Time spent tweaking stops you from moving forward. You can become stagnant and get nowhere.

    Yes, all books need an editor whether traditional or self-published. You want your book the best it can be, but consider it a first draft and know that if the book is to be traditionally published,

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  • June 11, 2015

    Ask the Agent: Can we talk marketing?

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    I’ve had a number of authors asking marketing questions lately…

    I watched an interview on Book TV, and a publisher was asked if a book tour helps sell books. Her response: “Not necessarily.” Would you agree?

    I would. There’s nothing magical about a book tour. In fact, if there isn’t some associated media, the author can show up for a tour event and have no readers present… and NOTHING will depress an author more than having an empty room at what should be a party for their book. So no, a book tour doesn’t automatically help sell books. But it can be a fun and important strategy if tied to a push for local media involvement.

    Since some authors desire to write a book and then sit back, are there businesses that will do the marketing for them?

    Sure there are. Any good marketing or PR firm will take you on as a client and do your marketing for you, for a fee. And that can work for some authors. The upside? Someone else is doing the work, freeing you to write. The downside? It’s expensive, and the people you hire may or may not know how to best market your book. I generally remind people that nobody has as much as stake in a book as the author. Nobody knows the book better, nobody is as passionate about the message, and nobody will win as much as the author, should the book do well. So I think there’s a good reason for authors to be very involved in the marketing of their own work.

    I just self published a book, and the company wanted $3900 (reduced to $3200) to send out press releases. I found an independent source willing to arrange blog tours and send out press releases for $1200. Are such options worth it? Or can an author do that for himself/herself?

    Spending more than three grand on

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  • June 9, 2015

    Craft for a Conference: Part 3, Common Synopsis Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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    brick green no smile b:wContinuing my series on crafting effective pieces for use at a conference, I’m talking more today about the synopsis and how to make sure it’s doing its job for your proposal. We’ll look briefly at format and then look at ways to avoid several common synopsis mistakes.

    Synopsis format 

    A synopsis is similar to a proposal in that there isn’t one “correct” way to format it. While there are elements that every synopsis should have in common, rarely are you going to be “disqualified” from consideration just because your synopsis isn’t formatted exactly the way that agent or editor prefers. That said, there are still a few fairly standard conventions you should be aware of:

    -Synopses are often single-spaced. This may seem strange, since your sample chapters/manuscript should be double-spaced, but remember, an agent or editor is reading your synopsis to get a complete picture of your story from beginning to end– having all the info contained to a single page (as you should 9 times out of 10 be able to do for any book shorter than 100,000 words– see more below) helps us think of the book as a whole because we literally “see” it all in the same place.

    -Names are often written in all-caps the first time they appear in a synopsis. Again, this is a way for the reader to visually track when a new player enters the story, and tells them to pay attention, they need to know who this person is.

    –Synopses are always written in third-person present tense. Tense discrepancies in a synopsis (such as switching back and forth from past to present) interrupt our experience of the story.

    Common synopsis mistakes and how to avoid them

    I mentioned last week the mistake of being too vague in your synopsis (writing that “tragedy strikes,” rather than “Helen dies of the fever”), but here are a few more repeat offenders from the “synopses

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  • June 5, 2015

    Showing Emotion in Writing (a guest blog by Robin Patchen)

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    How do most of us (note—I’m one of the us) show emotions in our stories? Often, we use physiological responses. Here are a few:

    • Sad—eyes filling with tears
    • Angry—fists clenching or slamming stuff
    • Worried—gut twisting
    • Happy—smiling, grinning, laughing, chuckling, giggling

    It works, it’s easy, and it makes the point. It’s perfect.

    Maybe not.

    It has been said that the purpose of fiction is to evoke an emotional reaction. So let me ask you, when you read the words, “Her eyes filled with tears,” do yours? Because mine don’t. And I don’t even know what a twisting gut feels like. Those phrases may show us how your character feels, but they don’t evoke any emotions. So how do we make our readers feel along with our characters?

    I don’t have a step-by-step plan. However, I have recently had an epiphany. Counselors tell us that thoughts lead to emotions, and emotions lead to actions. So what happens if you show us your characters’ thoughts and actions? Seems to me their feelings will be obvious, and you won’t need to tell us about their rumbling guts and teary eyes. And if you do it right, you can make the reader feel what your characters do. An example:

    John hefted his bag and limped down the metal stairs, forcing himself not to rub that sore spot. Plenty of guys had worse injuries than his. He stared across the tarmac. A band played on the left. An array of dignitaries stood in his way. He scanned the crowd. They held signs that read Welcome home and God bless our heroes.

    It was time to be a different kind of hero.

    She stood beyond the suited politicians. His wife had curled her hair that day, just like he liked it. A year had passed since he’d seen her last. A year of dust and death, of protecting the innocent and chasing the guilty. A year

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  • Brian

    June 4, 2015

    Publishing & Technology: Will Facebook Save the Lit Mag Too?

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    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 looking at the ongoing struggle of literary magazines to remain profitable, a recent development involving the social media giant Facebook and several news publishers, and pondering a future where literary mags may be distributed via social media. As with several of my past posts, this post picks up on my thoughts following the reading of an article posted elsewhere. To read the full article that got me going down this path click the link below to Vindu Goel and Ravi Somaiya’s May 13th New York Times article Facebook Begins Testing Instant Articles From News Publishers.
    If you read my bio when I first joined MacGregor Literary you might have noticed that I cut my teeth in publishing by working at the literary journals Portland Review (print and digital) and Unshod Quills (digital only) and the online arts and culture magazine Nailed. I can tell you from firsthand experience that running a literary magazine in more often than not both a labor of love and an act of audacity performed in the face of a variety of woes, chief among them lack of money.

    When I worked on Portland Review as an associate editor during my undergrad years we had a robust subscription base in the thousands and a budget that well covered our printing and distribution costs. When I returned to Portland Review a decade later as Editor-in-Chief we were facing our third straight year of budget cuts and our subscription list had dwindled to a number less than twenty. Without the support of Portland State University, budget cuts and near 100% free student labor notwithstanding, the journal would no longer be in print. This shift

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  • June 3, 2015

    Craft for a Conference: Part 2, A Synopsis that Tells, Not Teases

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    brick green no smile b:wThis week, I’m continuing my series on how to best channel your craft in your conference materials by talking about your novel’s synopsis. A synopsis is an important part of any proposal– sometimes an agent or editor will read it at the conference when taking a look at your proposal, other times they won’t see it until you send them the requested sample chapters or full manuscript, but whenever they get around to looking at it, they’ll be expecting certain things from the synopsis, and if yours doesn’t deliver, you risk frustrating or confusing that important reader. Remember, agents and editors are looking for reasons to say “no” to a  project– not in a jerky, we-can’t-wait-to-stomp-on-your-dreams kind of way (well, not most of us…), but in a realistic, we-hear-pitches-all-the-time-and-have-trained-ourselves-to-listen-for-certain-dealbreakers-so-as-not-to-waste-our-or-an-author’s-time-by-pursuing-a-project-that-doesn’t-fit-our-guidelines/preferences/areas-of-interest kind of way. A synopsis that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to creates a potential place for us to say “no,” so make sure you understand the function of a synopsis in a proposal and how to make sure it provides what an agent or editor is looking for in a synopsis.

    What is the purpose of a synopsis? When an agent or editor looks at a synopsis, they’re looking to get a feel for the WHOLE book, beginning to end. If they’re reading the synopsis, you’ve most likely already “hooked” them with a dynamite paragraph or pitch giving the main idea of the story– “some particular big thing or big problem happens to a main character or two in a particular setting and hijinks ensue as colorful secondary character’s arc or additional subplot unfolds in tandem with the main character’s journey to learning something.” This hook paragraph has given them the basic premise, a hint of your voice, and a feel for the most unique elements of the book, but now they want to find out more. Sometimes, they’ll read the synopsis first; sometimes, they’ll want to look at the

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