Category : Publishing

  • Brian

    April 22, 2015

    Publishing & Technology

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    The Persistent Cultural Need for Publishersbrt-headshot

     

    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 about how the ongoing expansion of independent (or self-) publishing is driving the need for publishers, now more than ever.

    Last year I had the good fortune to attend a talk given by Smashword’s founder Mark Coker at Portland State University. I say “good fortune” not because I found the argument he presented to be anything short of a self-serving apologist’s attack on traditional publishing and the culture of gate-keeping that discouraged Mr. Coker (by his own acknowledgement) and many millions of other aspiring authors in their attempts to gain the industry’s seal of approval. I say “good fortune” because his presentation infuriated me to such a point that I was forced to stay with many of the uneasy thoughts I’d attempted to hold at bay for some time regarding the rebranding of self-publishing as “independent publishing” by those who would profit from the aspirations of the aforementioned millions. The general gist of his talk, I’m paraphrasing Mr. Coker here, is that it has been the publishers who have been holding writers back for all these years, trampling the aspirations of millions of deserving authors in the name of abstractions such as a manuscript’s marketability and the potential for a return on the investment it would take to bring any manuscript to publication.

    Don’t misunderstand me. The democratization of publishing has some inherent good in it. As it levels the playing field for authors from groups that have been egregiously underrepresented in traditional publishing, it is a good thing. As it provides writers whose work doesn’t fit established, “salable” molds (the novella author, the poet, and, increasingly, the writer

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  • February 19, 2015

    Thursday with Amanda: Which Comes First? A Book Deal or Platform? (FICTION)

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    Amanda LuedekeAmanda 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.

    In the journey of publishing, what is the typical order of events? Does an author come out with a book first? Or do they develop a platform first?

    I think many of us in the industry see this as an easy question to answer.

    For fiction, the book comes first.

    For nonfiction, the platform.

    But it never fails that I’ll inevitably run into authors who either don’t understand this, don’t agree, or flat out don’t fit the mold. So here is some insight into the fiction side of this topic:

    WHAT COMES FIRST FOR FICTION? A BOOK DEAL OR PLATFORM?

    If you’ve ever tried to build a platform for your fiction career without actually having a novel, you’ll find it’s near-impossible. I mean, what do you blog about? What do you Tweet? You don’t have characters anyone knows, you don’t have product to push, and you certainly don’t have much reason to share when your next draft is done or when you’ve had a 10k writing marathon.

    Marketing your fiction career without a product is HARD. So that’s why the general rule is that the book comes first, then the platform.

    BUT! there are always exceptions to the rule. For fiction, a huge exception would be an author who has found an audience not for their fiction writing, but for some other hobby or focus. Let’s say Trina writes fiction. But she also bakes. She has a recipe blog with a decent following. So in a sense, Trina has a platform and this platform will actually help her

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  • February 6, 2015

    The Journey of my First Publishing Contract (A Guest Blog by Jill Lynn)

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    Jill Lynn HeadshotI’m a newbie to the publishing world. In early 2014, I received my first publishing offer from Harlequin Love Inspired. I accepted it with excitement, ready for the words hidden on my computer to be seen by all the world.

    Then I received my first edits.

    After hyperventilating, I read them again. I could tell my editor was right… she was brilliant, seeing things I hadn’t seen. But the changes… I didn’t have a clue where to begin. The task felt insurmountable. I wrote and wrote, and my family didn’t see me for a period of time.

    When we reached the end of edits, then came an entirely new problem. They wanted me to hand the book over to them. What? When did we agree to this? Oh, yeah. When I signed the contract. But still, they actually wanted me to fork over my words. They were going to let people read them. But… but… but I’m not done yet!

    I quickly realized I would never feel ready.

    Part of being creative is that there’s always something more that can be changed or tweaked or deleted. That’s what deadlines are for. Someone has to pry the book from your hands. I naively thought I would have a book done before the deadline. I’m not a procrastinator and I don’t do things last minute. But I never realized that I wouldn’t feel ready to give it up. I did send it in on time, and then I wandered around my house for a week wondering what to do with myself. Laundry would have been a good option.

    Next came the request for titles. I went round and round on those, bugging my friends, my poor agent Amanda, and my husband until people were texting me random title ideas at all hours of the day.

    Once a title was picked, we moved on to line edits.

    Oh, wait. You thought the edits

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  • February 5, 2015

    Thursdays with Amanda: Visiting Minneapolis Publishers

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    Amanda LuedekeAmanda 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.

    Last week I did a few publisher visits in Minneapolis, and I thought it would be fun to show some of the pictures from my visit.

    In today’s publishing world, publisher visits are really a rarity for those of us agents who don’t live in NYC. So it’s always great fun to meet up with publishing friends and make new ones.

    Minneapolis has a handful of houses that are quite well known and successful (It’s funny…we think of NYC or Nashville or Colorado Springs as being the main pub hubs, but in reality, there are publishers all over the US!). So I was thrilled to be able to visit with a few of them.

    These in-person visits really help build relationships. Most tend to think that it’s during these visits that business is done and deals made, but that’s quite rare. I’m just as successful doing deals with editors I’ve never met as I am doing them with my editor friends. But still, it’s great to deepen professional and even personal relationships, so that’s why these visits are important.

    My first stop was literary house Milkweed Editions. They’re a small nonprofit operation, but very respected and quite successful. Located in the beautiful Loft Literary Center in downtown Minneapolis, Milkweed is surrounded by likeminded businesses and people. The area is a pocket of literary-ness that really does inspire. The editor there, Daniel Slager, is proud of what they do and he has every reason to be.

    Due to weather delays, I didn’t have a chance to meet with

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  • November 3, 2014

    What would you say are the top questions to ask an agent?

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    So I’m talking with a publisher about a book that will explore the new world of publishing, and specifically the role of agents in that world. I was asked this question: If you were to list the top 100 questions authors want to ask literary agents, what would they be?

    Rather than creating that myself, I thought I’d ask you… What would you say are the top questions you (and other writers) want to ask a literary agent?

    The first ones will be easy… What does a literary agent do? Why do I need an agent in today’s publishing market? How do I find an agent? But beyond that, I’d love to know what you think the top questions are. Would you mind helping me out today and just popping into the “comments” section below and sharing your thoughts? OR you can send me an email at chip (at) MacGregor Literary (dot) com. Thanks very much!

    Chip

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  • September 15, 2014

    Ask the Agent: Which e-book publisher should I choose?

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    I’ve been one of those agents encouraging writers to consider becoming hybrid authors (that is, publishing with traditional publishers, as well as self-publishing some titles). That has brought me this question from several people: Which e-book publishers do I need to consider? 

    There are a number of choices for authors who want to indie-publish a book. Everybody tends to immediately think, “I’ll just post it myself on Amazon,” but we’ve seen countless error-filled books done on Amazon, so if you want to take a step forward, there are some options to consider. Of course, you need to know what you want in a publisher. For example, do you want to pay extra for marketing help? Does your non-fiction book need photos or maps in the text? Will you want the capability of adding an audio version of your novel? There are a bunch of choices, so let me suggest some places to consider checking out.

    1. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (you’ll find them at kdp.amazon.com). This can be a great choice, since it’s quick, easy, and fast. KDP will make sure your book is available on every Kindle and every computer or phone with the Kindle app, it allows you to be part of their unlimited lending program, and has some special features such as their “countdown” deal and their free book program. KDP pays you a royalty of 35% of the list price on most sales, with the opportunity of a 70% royalty if you follow some pricing guidelines. They pay monthly, and can do direct deposits. It’s a great way to go for many authors… but the big drawback is that they will have some Amazon-only restrictions. That means people who don’t own a Kindle won’t even be seeing your book. Still, KDP is great for reaching the Kindle crowd, which is roughly 60% of all ebook readers.

    2. Smashwords (www.smashwords.com). This is who we almost always recommend

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  • July 7, 2014

    If you're new to the world of publishing…

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    I’m a big supporter of authors trying to self-publish their out-of-print works (and sometimes their new works, depending on the author and situation), and I’ve had a number of authors write to ask questions about publishing terms and traditions. I thought you might find it helpful to know some of the official nomenclature we use in the industry:

    The FRONT MATTER is all of the information that goes in the front of the book, between the cover and the actual text. It usually contains a bunch of legal and technical information about the book, and the pages are all numbered, but they often don’t have actual page numbers showing up (at least not on what are called the “display” pages — the title page, the half title page, the copyright page, the dedication page, any blank pages, etc).

    There are a number of elements to the Front Matter that require special terms: the title page (which has the complete title, subtitle, author name, and publisher) the half-titlte page (which just has the book’s title), the copyright page, the legal or copyright acknowledgements (if you needed permission for anything in your text), the dedication, acknowledgements, and table of contents. There will also be a colophon, a more recent development in publishing a book that details the font, the printer, and any special production notes about the book.

    There are also a number of additional Front Matter pieces that are used less often: a foreword (written by someone other than the author, to introduce the topic), a preface (written by the author to explain HOW the book was written), an introduction (written by the author to explain WHY the book was written), a prologue (written by the narrator or a character in the novel to set the scene or give important background information), an epigraph (usually a poem or quote pertinent to the story), and the author’s acknowledgements (so you can tell

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  • May 21, 2014

    FINDING, AND TRUSTING, AN AGENT

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    BY CHIP MACGREGOR

    Someone wrote to say, “I heard an agent speak at our writing group. He sounded interesting, so I went to his website, which is interesting but I wasn’t sure I could trust it. You have to contract with them for a year and pay an up-front fee of $195, though it’s not clear if that is per project for for all your works. Is that the usual course?

    Yikes. Several thoughts come to mind . . .

    First, don’t go to any agent that asks for an up-front fee. That screams rip-off. I don’t know of any credible literary agent who asks you to send him or her a check right off the bat. You can’t be a member of AAR by charging fees, and you’ll get listed in “Predators and Editors” if you do. Stay away from fee-based agents. (And if you’re interested in this topic, I highly recommend the book Ten Percent of Nothing, which offers a fine expose’ of scam agents.)

    Second, you don’t want to sign up with an agent you know nothing about. Websites are marketing tools, and some of them over-promise when in reality the agent will under-deliver. I can claim anything I want on my website (that I’m the best agent in history, that I’ll make you a million dollars, that I look exactly like Brad Pitt), but if we don’t know each other, and if we’ve never met, HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO BELIEVE? Be cautious over sites that over-promise. (For the record, I look exactly like Brad Pitt. Especially if you stand far away. And squint. And are blind.)

    Third, be wary of agents trolling for business by sending you advertisements. It’s one thing to meet someone at a conference, or to begin a dialogue over a submission you’ve sent in — most of the authors we represent we met somewhere and

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  • May 1, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: The Future of Literary Agents in a Digital World

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    2014AmandaAmanda 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.

     

    All this talk about hybrid authors and self-publishing, and there’s one question that is bound to surface:

    Are agents a dying breed?

    Maybe. I mean some freakish thing could happen that changes everything and puts the final set of nails in the Literary Agent coffin, but the way things are shaping up, my answer would be “no.” We aren’t a dying breed, and here’s why…

    AGENTS AND SMALL OR INDEPENDENT HOUSES

    I’m no expert on the history of the literary agent, but it’s quite clear that the role was developed out of necessity. The typewriter, and later email, made it ridiculously easy for anyone to pound out a terrible novel and send it to the best editors the industry had to offer. Those terrible novels would fill up the queue, thus suffocating the really great publishable novels. Editors, whose time is valuable and limited…and who also have a tendency to spend much more time analyzing a manuscript than an agent does…eventually turned to agents to help weed through the bad and find the good.

    While we tend to think that indie and small houses are there for the unagented, the fact of the matter is that these publishers are more than willing to work with agents. In fact, they many times welcome it. They love when someone else has vetted the material before they even have to give it a look. And consequently, an agent can many times get a faster response from them than your typical unagented author. Why? Because there is a sense of professional responsibility.

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  • April 30, 2014

    What would you ask a literary agent? (the wrap up)

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    A handful of leftover questions from our month of “sitting down with a literary agent” series…

    Can a person who does not aspire to fame be a successful writer?

    Of course. Some writers are looking for fame, but in my experience most get into writing because they have a story to tell. By the same token, some writers embrace the “fame” aspect of getting published, and love the attention it creates, while others hate it, and just want to write and maintain their privacy. There are plenty of examples of both. Perhaps this is getting skewed today because of social media, which can sometimes make it seem like every author is required to be an extrovert. But my feeling is that there are a lot of introverted writers, who don’t seek to be everywhere, all the time, commenting on everything.

    If I have a really well-written book, how can I meet literary agents?

    You can go to conferences and meet some agents face to face. You can go to a book show or industry event and get in touch with agents. You can talk to published authors about their current agent. You can look at Chuck Sambucino’s Guide to Literary Agents, or Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. You can go to the Association of Author Representatives website, or to AgentResearch.com. You can find out who the busiest agents are, or which agents tend to work in your genre by joining Publishers Marketplace and researching their database. Or I suppose you could do it the old fashioned way and try to get a face-to-face meeting by sending them a fabulous proposal and showing up to talk. No matter what you do, spend some time researching the agent to make sure he or she is a fit, what they require in a proposal, and how they work with authors. You can also go to Predators & Editors

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