• June 6, 2013

    What are the differences between CBA and the general market?

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    Our discussion yesterday about CBA and the general market lead to several questions, including someone asking, “So what are the differences between CBA and ABA books?”

    There are many similarities between the religious market and the general market. Both markets want to offer good books. (I’ve never met the guy who wanted to produce or sell a bad book.) Both want to entertain in some way. Both intend to have most of their books foster some sort of understanding.

    Yet there are real differences. Many people writing in CBA are largely doing so because they feel they have a “message” they want to pass along. I meet these folks at conferences all the time – in their way of thinking, God has given them this great story, and they must be obedient and tell it to others. They have “Truth” that must be communicated. Sure, they want to be successful in the market, but even more important is the promulgation of the Gospel, and the notion of being obedient to share that message. Perhaps we could say “effective ministry” supplants “making money” in the hearts of many religious authors (not all, but many). And, of course, one could argue that there are certainly plenty of people in the general market who believe strongly in their own message, and feel that same need to share it, whether it be “how to lose weight” or “how to save the planet” or “why we shouldn’t go to war.” The notion of “calling” is a bit ephemeral — one author can be totally committed to a cause, and another can be totally committed to the opposite cause. In publishing, we understand the importance of exchanging ideas, of making a case, or saying it well. That’s the author’s job, no matter what market you’re in.

    However, I think it’s safe to say that, if faith-based authors are often driven to share some sort of message,

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  • June 4, 2013

    Is crossing over from CBA to the general market possible?

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    Just back from a fabulous BEA convention, where the mood was upbeat, nobody was whining about the future of books, and everyone involved (authors, publishers, agents, sales people, marketing folks) seemed excited about the future of the industry. Loved being back in New York and seeing all the great titles coming out. I like to watch trends, and noticed several at the show (which I’ll talk more about in future posts), including the changes to faith-based publishing. So while I was at the show, someone sent this: “You seem to be one of the few literary agents who works in the general market (what a lot of people call the ABA) as well as working in the Christian market (the CBA). I’ve published two books in CBA, but think my next book fits more of a general market audience. My question: is ‘crossing over’ from CBA to ABA a reality?”

    Okay, if you’re not terribly religious, stay with me for a minute…. I think this stuff is interesting to talk about. First, for those not in the know, CBA is the Christian Booksellers Association, and it’s the realm of all things faith-based in publishing. ABA is the American Booksellers Association, and it’s sometimes used (though less and less) as a descriptor for the general, non-religious world of publishing. Now, if you’ll indulge me, let me offer a theological reflection that speaks to this issue of CBA and ABA books: Christianity teaches that when you meet God, you are changed. (I don’t care if you believe that or not, just hear the argument.) A Christian would argue that everything about you is different, because you’ve been exposed to God. So, from a theologian’s perspective, a Christian probably won’t be completely understood by those who are not Christians. He or she is speaking a different language. And any cultural anthropologist till tell you that the longer you’re a Christian, the fewer non-Christian

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  • June 3, 2013

    How to Thrive Through Rejection: A Guest Post by Tina Bustamante

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    While our hardworking agents are winding down from BEA this past weekend in New York, another author is filling in with a guest post. Enjoy!

    Tina Bustamante is a writer, passionate reader, wife, mom, friend, and traveler. A world traveler who hails from the Pacific Northwest, she studied Theology at Northwest University and considers the craft of writing a journey that is sometimes bumpy and downright rough, but always worth continuing. Currently, she speaks when invited and writes fiction during the day. She is married to Rodrigo Bustamante and they have two lovely children named Emma and Lucas.

    Seven years ago, I completed my first novel. I considered it a brilliant piece of work, worthy of a great publishing contract. I had worked hard on the manuscript–putting my soul, my mind, and all my attention into crafting a great story full of adventure.

    I decided to take a risk and give it to a few friends, who read it and encouraged me to send it out. So, feeling like I might be the next Madeleine L’Engle, I sent it to another author who agreed to help me.

    About three weeks later, I received an email from him letting me know I was not ready for prime time. My work was not good enough. He tried to encourage me, told me I had talent, but that he didn’t think The Secret of the Keys was going to make it into the publishing world. He suggested I write my next novel, which I thought rude. In hindsight, I wasn’t looking for critical feedback. I wanted someone to tell me my work was great. I wanted a quick contract and easy fame.

    I cried. For three days. Then, with ever-increasing arrogance, I decided he had no idea what he was talking about. I would send it out to other agents and someone was bound to love my book. They didn’t. It got

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  • May 31, 2013

    A Newbie Writer's First Trip Around the Marketing Block: A Guest Post by Rajdeep Paulus

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    While our hardworking agents are attending BEA in New York this week, several authors are filling in with guest posts. Enjoy!

    Rajdeep Paulus decided to be a writer during her junior year in high school after her English teacher gave her an “F” but told her she had potential. She studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and began writing on the island of Dominica, while her husband of two months biked down to campus to begin his first day of medical school. Fifteen years, four daughters, and a little house on a hill in the quaint town of Locust Valley later, she now writes YAFiction and blogs weekly In Search of Waterfalls. 

    I’m not the first newbie author to wade through the waters of marketing her first book with a bit of trepidation. Truth be told, when I learned that a writer’s job was not simply to write a great story, sit back and wait for readers to come in flocks to scoop up copies galore, I welcomed the challenge that lay before me. Simply because I’m a tad atypical to the hermit-writer stereotype: I love people and rubbing elbows with the world outside my writing cave.

    So when I read a title like “The Extroverted Writer” by Amanda Luedeke, I think, oh, she’s talking about me! When, in fact, she’s composed a book chalk full of practical advice for all types of writers who find the whole marketing thing as messy as a knot on a bad hair-day morning. Something I am all too familiar with since I have four princesses. Hair balls up the ying-yang, but where was I?

    Yes. The art of marketing your first book. How do you do it? Successfully? And how do you know how to proportion your time, giving yourself time to write, edit, market and still take time to breathe.

    So I began my marketing momentum by brainstorming. A bunch of ideas

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  • May 30, 2013

    A Room of Her Own: A Guest Post by Keri Wyatt Kent

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    While our hardworking agents are attending BEA in New York this week, several authors are filling in with guest posts. Enjoy!

     

    Keri Wyatt Kent writes and speaks on slowing down to listen to God, and occasionally tries to follow her own advice. She and her husband Scot have two teenage children and live in Chicago. This piece originally ran on Tim Fall’s blog.

    In an oft-quoted lecture on women and fiction, Virginia Woolf remarked that a woman needs a room of her own if she is to write.

    Woolf had been asked to lecture on women and fiction. Here’s a bit more of the context:  “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.”

    What is meant by “a room of her own” has been discussed countless times since Woolf said those words in 1928. It’s obvious she meant much more than a physical space with four walls to contain it. But certainly she was talking about some space, and boundaries to protect it (whether physical or metaphorical).

    In the same lecture, Woolf noted that because of her gender, she was barred from walking on the lawn or even entering the library at the university she was visiting, unless accompanied by a man.  Certainly independence and autonomy were part of what Woolf longed for and recommended.

    I am a writer by profession, and if you take these requirements literally, I do indeed have both financial resources and a “room of my own.”  The spare bedroom in our house is my office. And I earn my living—modest as it is—by writing.

    Women have far greater access to resources than they did in Woolf’s day. And yet, sometimes we think we’re still not allowed in the library. We

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  • May 29, 2013

    How to Build a Blog that Markets for You: a Guest Post by Stephanie Morrill

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    Stephanie Morrill writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

    When my debut novel hit shelves in 2009, words like marketing, platform, and tribe put me in a bad mood. I was convinced that I didn’t possess the skillset I needed for being a good marketer, and that my best bet was to just write good books and hope for the best.

    But then I fell in love with blogging. During the last three years, I’ve invested a portion of my writing time into a blog for teen writers called Go Teen Writers. At first it felt like I was on a stage and talking to an audience. As months passed, the audience slowly-but-surely grew. But instead of just looking at me, listening to me, talking to me…they turned toward each other. They looked, listened, and talked.

    No longer was Go Teen Writers just me typing and scheduling posts, a drain on precious writing time. Once the teens began connecting to each other, the blog became a place of conversation, community, and friendship.

    And a marketing tool beyond my imagination.

    Here’s an example of what can happen when your audience starts chatting with each other instead of just talking to you:

    In March, my publisher was generous enough to offer my debut novel, Me, Just Different, as a free ebook for six weeks. And, of course, the campaign launched during the one trip I had planned all spring.

    I told myself that I had six weeks to promote the book and didn’t need to panic, but I was excited and decided to at least mention the

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  • May 28, 2013

    Where does depth in fiction come from?

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    Someone wrote to ask, “Put simply, where does depth in fiction come from?”

    Depth is found when multidimensional characters who I can relate to, who I care about, face the timeless questions of life in the midst of complex circumstances, then make decisions that are open to interpretation. Their choices may not be right, but as a reader, I get to go through the experience with the characters. I see people in your story I have come to care about facing big decisions, making choices that I may or may not agree with, and I get to go through that season with them, and see the results of their choices, then measure them against my own life. THAT’S what causes me to learn, helps me to understand myself, and leaves me thinking about your book. And this can’t be faked – any bright reader will figure out when you’re faking depth or artificially trying to gin up emotion. So you can’t write with an agenda. Nothing is more boring than to read a polemic masquerading as a novel.

    One novelist sent me this: “Writers of historical fiction seem to be interested in knowing what time period editors might be looking for. Is there a ‘hot’ time period you would like to see a book set in or any to avoid?”

    Well, it’s changing all the time. Publishing is a tidal business– the tide comes in, the tide goes out. So Amish fiction doesn’t exist, then we’re awash in All Things Amish, then there are considerably fewer of those titles. And there’s nothing wrong with that — the culture embraces some topics or periods for a season. Some have more staying power than others (so “westerns” became their own genre, “Amish fiction” has become it’s own sub-genre in Christian fiction, and Chick Lit disappeared as a relative flash in the pan).Watching the trends can be fun, just to see what publishers

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  • May 26, 2013

    The Christy Awards make another major mistake…

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    So, if you haven’t heard the news, I’ve been asked to be the keynote speaker at the 2013 Christy Awards. Yes — me. Chip MacGregor, literary agent. I’m fairly certain this was a clerical error, but it’s exactly this sort of thing that causes people to shake their heads at the decline of Solid American Values in publishing. Next thing you know, they’ll be having an agent serve as the Master of Ceremonies…

    Oh, wait. It turns out they also asked my good buddy Steve Laube to serve as the emcee. He is also a longtime literary agent. Um… Well this just goes to show that anyone can make a mistake. I mean, first they forgot to give Jerry Jenkins a Christy Award, now they hire a couple of agents to man the microphone. I’m telling you, we need a blue-ribbon panel to check into this. (Heads will roll.)

    If you’re not familiar, the Christy Awards are really the premier award for those who write inspirational fiction. They’ve been around about 15 years, and are named after Catherine Marshall’s seminal novel, Christy. Originally created by a dozen CBA publishers, the awards intended to honor Ms Marshall’s contribution to the field of faith-infused fiction, as well as providing opportunities to recognize the best novels and novelists in the genre. I’ve long been a fan of the Christy Awards, and have represented dozens of finalists and several Christy winners (including last year’s winners Mindy Starns Clark, Leslie Gould, and Ann Tatlock). We have several finalists again this year in the different categories — which you can find by going to www.christyawards.com .

    So I’m completely surprised and flattered that they’d invite me to speak, even if the person on the other end of the line MEANT to call Chip Kelly, the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and, like me, a former Oregon Duck. (Don’t worry — I get that a

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  • May 24, 2013

    How long before I hear about my query?

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    Someone asked, “How do you feel about writers following up on a query or proposal submission? What is an acceptable time period to wait before following up?”

    Let me set some ground rules. First, if I didn’t ask for your proposal, I don’t owe the author a response. (I’m sorry if that sounds rude, but look at this from my perspective: If I had to respond to every proposal that comes in cold, I’d have a full-time job just responding to proposals… and I’d never make a dime.) So if I read it and give a response, even if it’s a “no thanks,” I’m doing the author a favor. Second, I’m going to try and get to it quickly, but there’s no guarantee it will be immediate. I’m the type of person who hates having a bunch of stuff sitting around the desk, so I’m bound to get to the proposals as soon as I can. But I can get busy with travel or meetings or simply working on projects for the authors I already represent — so sometimes things can slow down considerably. Third, I understand this is a business on the writing side, so if an author needs info, I want to be fair about it; if she decides she needs to go elsewhere, I’ll probably be understanding. 

    When an author sends me a proposal I’ve asked for, I try to get back to people within four to six weeks. The fact is, I’m often much faster. But I’ll admit something: I hate having people send me short notes in order to remind me that I’ve failed them (“I sent you my proposal a month ago!”). I think perhaps they’ve forgotten that I don’t owe them a reading. If I agree to read their proposal, it’s because I choose to. (Okay, sorry if I sound cranky, but I got one of these today, from a woman I’ve

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  • May 23, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Questions to Ask a Web Designer

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    Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor 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 andBarnes & Noble.

    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?

    We always talk marketing here on Thursdays with Amanda, and we’ve frequently mentioned 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. 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
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