• July 2, 2014

    You're invited to a LIVE version of "Thursdays with Amanda"

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    On SUNDAY, August 24, we’re going to try something new… a LIVE version of Amanda’s wonderful marketing information, set into a seminar format. Amanda and I will be in Nashville, at the Airport Embassy Suites, from 9 to 4, talking with authors about how to create a marketing plan for their books. Here’s what our outline looks like:

    — The New World of Author Marketing — What’s Working (and not working) in Today’s Market
    — Finding Your Audience and Reaching Your Readers
    — Choosing the Tools You’ll Use to Promote Your Book
    — Creating Your Own Personalized Marketing Plan
    — Building Your Author Platform (we are bringing in a specialist to offer some advice and direction)
    — Marketing with a Traditional Publisher vs Marketing Your Indie-Published Book

    We’ll also be spending some time talking about working effectively with your publicist, and how to work with a freelance publicist, and we’ll get into a bunch of discussions on related topics — one of the most fun aspects of doing this type of seminar is the chance to talk with other authors who are going through the marketing process. But that’s our basic outline for the day, and we’d love to have you join us!

    The cost is just $99 for the entire day, if you register in July (it will go up on August 1). Again, the focus of this day will be on doing something PRACTICAL — not on theory or on promoting a product. We just wanted to get authors together and have time to explore how an author can create his or her own marketing plan by focusing on ideas that actually work, so the emphasis will on on what an author can take and do, rather than on theory or philosophy. We hope you’ll join us. Please let me know if you plan to come by RSVPing me. Thanks, and we hope to see you in Nashville

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  • June 30, 2014

    What if I'm a part-time writer, part-time something else?

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    A friend wrote to say, “I have a degree in teaching, and I’ve taken classes in a professional writing program… but I feel stuck between two careers. What do I do?”

    If you’re trying to make it as a writer, you’ve got an uphill climb. But so does everybody who wants to make a living with art. Making a living in the arts (ANY art) is hard. Here’s an example I’ve used several times: I’m a pretty good ballroom dancer. (Really. Publishers love it when I come to their publishing balls, since there will be 300 authors and 6 guys who know how to dance.) I took lessons, was in dance classes, and hoofed it in musical theater. If you saw me on the dance floor at the Harlequin ball, you might think I was head and shoulders above most beginners. But I realize there’s a huge gap between being pretty good at the local dance club and asking people to pay $80 to come watch me dance in a show on Broadway. There’s a gap between being “pretty good” and being “a professional.”

    My son is a good guitar player, but there’s quite a leap from playing in a garage band and asking people to plunk down $18 for your latest album on iTunes. My daughter Molly could act and was in the plays in school — but there’s a big gap between “being pretty good in the high school comedy” and “asking people to come see me at an equity theater.” All of us who grew up in churches have heard really good singers over the years… but there’s a big gap between the woman who is pretty good with a solo in the Christmas concert and the professional singer who has been granted a record contract.

    So just because someone is a pretty fair writer doesn’t mean she can expect a reader to pay $25 for her

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  • June 26, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: Who Schedules a Book Signing?

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    2013amanda2Amanda 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.

    I’m at a young writers conference this week, so to make for a shorter blog post, I’m going to answer this question that came in response to my post on The Book Marketing Process.

    “…does the author schedule bookstore signings and readings or is that something the agent/publisher does?”  – Sara

    First of all, signings and readings and in-store events aren’t what they once were. Authors who pursue these marketing options are many times lucky to see a dozen people show up. When you take into consideration the time it takes to plan and put on such an event, it’s clearly not a worthwhile strategy.

    HOWEVER, some authors have the “in-store event” gene, and they can do it quite well. For these authors, the planning and scheduling falls on them. They can ask their publisher to create posters that they can use to advertise each event. (The posters shouldn’t have dates and times, but rather a space for the author to fill that info in on their own…this allows the publisher to send a large amount of posters that the author can use for all his/her events). They can also ask for other simple promotional materials, but other than that, the publisher doesn’t play a role in this kind of marketing.

    The only time when this doesn’t ring true is when the publisher has decided to send an author out on tour. In this case, the publisher will schedule and pay for everything.

    So there you have it!

    Have you done in-store events? What was your experience

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  • June 25, 2014

    As a working writer, how do I create a budget?

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    Several people read my Monday blog and asked me, “What does a writing budget look like?”

    Here’s the basic idea…

    1. The author sets a financial goal for the year. It’s got to be something that is livable (if the writer is attempting to make this a full-time job) and reachable (so there’s no setting a goal of “a bazillion dollars”). Let’s say, for someone just moving into full-time writing, the goal is $36,000 per year. Yeah, that’s pretty skinny, but at least it’s a real wage for most writers. So figure out how much you need to earn in a year from your writing.

    2. I encourage an author to break that annual figure into monthly chunks — so in our example, the author’s goal is $3000 per month.

    3. The next step is to add up what the author expects to earn on the writing they are doing. How much in contracts does she already have? What other writing does she know she’ll be doing and getting paid for? That will help her figure out how much money is coming in, and how much she needs to add. Let’s say an author has a royalty check coming in May, expects to have completion money on a book contract in July, and is expecting to sell a project in October. All you have to do is to figure out the amounts and write them onto your writing calendar. Nothing will give an author more clarity than hard numbers written down on a calendar — it’s a way of saying, “I’m making this… so now I need to work to make that.”

    4. The obvious thing to do next is to match up dates and amounts. If you know you’re going to be working on a book in March/April/May, you can write down how much you’re making on that project. By looking at your calendar, you’ll see where

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  • June 23, 2014

    How can a writer create a career plan?

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    I have a background in organizational development — my graduate degree focused on how an organization grows and changes over time. In my job as a literary agent, I’ve found it’s proven helpful when talking to writers about their careers. You see, my contention is that some agents pay lip service to “helping authors with career planning,” but many don’t really have a method for doing that. (Actually, from the look of it, some don’t even know what it means. I think “career planning” to some people is defined as “having a book contract.”) During my doctoral program at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), I served as a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Career Planning and Placement Office. The focus was on helping people graduating in the arts figure out how to create a career plan, and that experience allowed me the opportunity to apply the principles of organizational theory to the real-world setting of those trying to make a living with words. In other words, I figured out how to walk an author through a real-world career map. So here are a few things I like to consider when talking with a writer…

    First, I want to get to know the author. Who is he (or she)? What’s the platform he brings to the process? Does she speak? If so, where, how often, to whom, to how many, and on what topics? Does he have experience with other media? What kind? What’s her message? What books has she done in the past? What other writing is the author doing that could boost the platform? If I can get to know an author, I can better help him or her to make wise career decisions that fit their own personal vision.

    Second, I want to find out about the author’s past. What were the significant events and accomplishments? What experiences did the author have that she liked or hated?

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  • June 19, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: The Book Marketing Process

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    2013amanda2Amanda 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.

    It’s nice to think that there’s some kind of publishing instruction manual that you receive once you get a book deal. It’s even nicer to think that your agent or editor, are on top of every detail, ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks and that you can proceed with confidence every step of the way.

    But as with any part of life, there’s no manual. First-time authors many times feel as though they’re fumbling through their book release, and try as we may, we agents and editors aren’t always able to stay ahead of the curve. Things get missed. Time slips away from us. And what’s even harder to admit is that this is the kind of business in which the squeaky wheel really does get the grease.

    In some cases, so, so much grease.

    Marketing departments operate in a similar fashion. They try their best to plan a head and give every book time and thought. But their focus is largely spent on only a handful of titles. These are the titles guaranteed to make the company money (meaning everyone will be able to keep their jobs and continue to take risks on new authors while continuing the careers of mid-list or low-list authors). So, these titles get the team’s focus. And the result?

    Marketing teams tend to be reactionary. Their days aren’t spent brainstorming strategies and researching the market. When not in meetings, their days are spent doing a few things for the big-release books and then responding to the dozens if not hundreds of

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  • June 18, 2014

    Ask the Agent: "How am I paid on my book contract?"

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    Someone wrote me to ask, “Can you explain how money is paid on a traditional publishing contract? I’ve got a contract in front of me, and I don’t understand it.”

    Happy to explain it. First, when you sign to do a book with a legacy publisher, most authors are paid an advance against royalties upon signing the contract. There’s a long tradition of publishers paying advances to authors, since it allows the author to survive while he or she is working on the book. This isn’t free money — it’s sort of a no-interest loan that will be earned back after your book releases.

    Let’s say the contract calls for a total advance of $20,000. Typically you’d get one-third of this on signing, another third upon turning in the completed work, and the last third upon publication. (That said, there are a million ways to divide the advance. Some pay half on signing, some pay a percentage when the author completes the bio and marketing forms, Random House wants to pay a portion when the book flips from hardcover to trade paper, etc.) So when your book releases, you’re now in the red $20,000 with the publisher. You’ve been paid that amount, but you haven’t earned anything back yet. Again, that’s not a loan that needs to be paid back, but it’s advance that needs to be worked off — or, in the parlance of the industry, it needs to be “earned out.”

    Second, as your book sells you are credited with money for each sale. That’s your royalty money, and with each sale it slowly reduces that $20,000 debt. Most trade publishers in the general market (that would include Random House, HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, etc.) pay a standard royalty on hardcover books: 10% of the book’s retail price on the first 5000 copies sold, 12.5% on the next 5000 copies sold, and 15% thereafter. Royalties for

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  • June 16, 2014

    Can a novelist market herself?

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    A woman I met at a conference wrote and asked, “Is it really possible to market yourself as a novelist?”

    I definitely think it’s possible for a novelist to market himself or herself. Over the past couple years, I’ve tried to share some thoughts on how novelists can market themselves, so you may find it helpful to meander back through my posts in order to look for ideas. But here’s the big picture: In my opinion, a novelist has to begin seeing herself not just as an artist (which you, as a writer, most certainly are), but also as a brand name or commodity that deserves marketing. And that means creating a well-thought-out plan for marketing yourself and your work. (Okay, I’ll admit that part of me hates writing that. I don’t like talking about words as “commodities,” and treating the writing arts as though they were cans of corn. But let’s face facts — I’m talking with writers who want to make a living writing, and that translates to selling books.)

    Non-fiction writers find it easier to do some basic marketing, since they have a topic or hot-button issue that is clearly discernable. If you were to write a book on losing weight or making money or raising kids, the potential audience for such a topic is easy to recognize. You can go onto radio programs and talk about the problem and the solutions you’re offering, or write articles for magazines and e-zines that explore your particular approach to the issue. With fiction, it’s tougher. Good stories are not about one topic, but explore numerous threads. And no radio or TV program wants to invite you on to re-tell your novel. So instead of focusing on the story, most fiction writers find they have to focus on the author or the genre. In other words, you and your voice becomes the focus of your marketing. This is why

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  • June 12, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: Do Radio and TV Spots Sell Books?

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    2013amanda2

    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.

     

    A bestselling author wrote us to ask about the usefulness of TV and radio spots in today’s multimedia culture. The question was something like this:

     I’ve been approached by a number of radio and TV shows. They want me to go on air for an interview or guest spot. With radio this isn’t a problem, though I certainly am questioning the effectiveness of such a marketing strategy in today’s culture, but with the TV opportunities, they never want to help me with travel costs.  And I’m simply not going to spend $1000 in travel costs for nine minutes of air time when I know for a fact that my sales have never spiked after such an appearance. Am I wrong in my thinking here? What’s the value of this kind of old school marketing?

    TV and radio spots on well-known networks or shows seem to make publishers happy. They like the notoriety, and frankly, authors like it too. But you’re right. It can get very expensive and like most marketing, there isn’t a guarantee that your sales will increase. In fact I’d say that in nearly all cases of the author going on TV or radio to promote a book, the sales stay relatively the same.

    I blame this on a few factors:

    1. Readers are being more stingy with their book money, and
    2. This kind of marketing doesn’t carry the weight that it once did because we live in an age in which consumers are being targeted nearly every single moment of every single day.

    It’s that

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  • June 12, 2014

    A big change for our agency

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    It’s always hard to say good-bye to friends, and it is especially hard when you have a long history of success in business together.

    Today we’re saying good-bye to longtime agent Sandra Bishop, who has resigned in order to pursue other opportunities.

    Sandra and I have worked together for seven years. Over that time she has worked to become a successful, respected agent in the industry, and has represented some wonderful projects — she was named “Agent of the Year” by ACFW in 2010, represented a RITA Award winner in 2011, has had several books on the various bestseller lists, and become well-known as a reasoned, thoughtful voice in the industry. She will soon be announcing her future plans, and they will doubtless involve books, authors, and well-told stories. We shall miss her, but we’re parting as friends, and we wish her nothing but the best in her new ventures.

    If you want to reach out to Sandra, her new email address is: bishopspdx@gmail.com

    Chip MacGregor

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