Category : Quick Tips

  • December 19, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: 30 Random Publishing Facts


    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.

    I turn 30 on Sunday (which is bittersweet…bitter because, well, I’m getting older…sweet because whenever people say “but aren’t you too young to be an agent?” I can reply “I’M THIRTY!”), and to commemorate this event, I decided to offer 30 completely and utterly random facts about publishing.

    1. Publishing comes to a screeching halt in the month of December. This year, I’ve noticed a bit more going on than normal, but typically December is a vortex in which manuscripts are either lost or put on hold.

    2. Agents who charge for their services are SCAMMING YOU.

    3. Whenever editors (or agents, for that matter) mention a very specific type of book that they want…chances are, they won’t acquire it even if you show it to them. Situations like that are the result of meetings they’ve been in where they have either brainstormed or been told to look for something. But the mind can so easily change over time, and the desire for a historical  serial killer novel will most likely either fade or they’ll take a look at what that actually looks like and decide they’re going to pass.

    4. Speaking of me being thirty, in NYC, there are a number of twenty-something publishing professionals. Even ones who are building their own lists. So while you may be shocked to see someone “so young” in the business, it’s actually quite common.

    5. HOWEVER, in the CBA (the religious side of publishing) there are far, far fewer twenty-somethings. It’s sad.

    6. Yes, BEA is as crazy as

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  • December 16, 2013

    10 Gift Ideas for Writers


    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.

    Ever wondered what to get your critique partners or writer friends/spouses for the holidays? Or maybe you’re at a loss for what to ask for this year? Never fear. I’ve got a drool-worthy list right here. With gifts sure to please you/the daydreaming wordsmiths in your life…regardless of your price range.

    1. Never underestimate a writer’s need for a librarian. When the Internet fails to provide much-needed search results and the writer’s list of historians and experts proves to be unhelpful, the first place many go is straight to the town library. And they wouldn’t have it any other way. It gets lonely, staring at a computer for hours on end. The library gets writers out of the house. We agents believe such behavior should be encouraged as often as possible. That’s why this mug is the perfect reminder that just because you don’t know what the Sami people wore in 1710, doesn’t mean all is lost. Keep calm. Ask a librarian.


    2. If you’ve ever been around your writer friend(s) when they’re in the midst of writer’s block, you know it’s a painful sight. Bags under the eyes. Unkempt hair. Dirty clothing. While their children have gone unfed, their house uncleaned…okay, so in all honesty, the very same thing happens when a writer is under deadline. So all the more reason to give your writer friends these Writer Dice. They not only help with plot formation, but can get stories out of sticky situations. Meaning less time spent slaving away at the keyboard, writing and

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  • December 12, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: 10 Things I’m Tired of Seeing


    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.

    (I’m taking a break from all-things-marketing for the rest of 2013…so if you’re here for posts on platforms and promotions, stay tuned…they’ll come with the new year).

    I did something like this on my Facebook page awhile back, so I figured I’d try it here!

    10 Things I’m Tired of Seeing

    1. Opening scenes that involve the main character (and his village, family, etc.) under sudden attack from the bad guys (within fantasy fiction). I’d say 70% of the fantasy novels I look at start this exact way. The second most common opening scene in fantasy involves a similar attack, except the focus is on a person or group who is trying to rescue a baby.

    2. Books that promise “5 Secrets” or “10 Reasons” but aren’t clear what those 5 or 10 things are within the text (within nonfiction).

    3. Salvation stories (within religious fiction). When it comes to a spiritual arc, this is ALL I SEE. It’s as if interesting plots only happen to characters who aren’t yet totally on board with Christianity. Authors need to push themselves to go deeper with their spiritual threads. There is an entire life AFTER one’s conversion. Show me that.

    4. Love that is really just lust (within romance fiction). I see it all the time and I’m sick of it. It’s like one moment the characters are casually talking, the next they’re fantasizing about one another’s bodies while claiming to be entirely smitten. Come on. You want me to believe that they’re meant to be? Have them fall in

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  • July 31, 2013

    How does a new writer get noticed?


    A regular reader of the blog sent in this question: What can a new author do to get noticed by an agent or editor?

    The most essential thing you can do as someone new to the industry is to be a great writer, of course. All the agents and editors have seen wannabe writers who are anxious to get published, but haven’t put in the time to really learn the craft. We see stories that have plot problems, shallow story lines, weak characters, bad dialogue, tons of description… And the surprising thing to me is that I’ll sometimes see that from a writer at a conference who is pushing hard for representation.

    It’s why I’ll frequently ask people at a face-to-face meeting, “What’s your goal for this meeting?” I mean, some people at a conference are looking for me to react to their story. Others want to show me some writing and interact a bit on it. Some people just have questions about the business or their career. But if a writer sits down at a ten minute meeting and expects an agent to offer representation, that’s probably unrealistic. A much more realistic goal would be to have a discussion about the salability of your work, and see if the agent or editor wants to take a more in-depth look at some later date. Maybe have you email the manuscript to him or her.

    If you want to get noticed at a conference, show up for your appointment on time. Dress professionally. Have a brief pitch prepared, and make sure you’ve actually practiced it out loud, so you know what you’re going to say. (Your family will think you’ve gone crazy for talking to yourself in the basement… but that’s okay. If you want to be a writer, you probably already qualify as “crazy.”) Do some research on the agents, to make sure you can target your pitch. (I’ve lost

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  • July 15, 2013

    Pitching: Are You Prepared?


    Guest writer HOLLY LORINCZ is a novelist as well as a publishing consultant at MacGregor Literary, and Chip’s assistant.  Before Mac Lit, Holly was the editor of a literary magazine and then an award winning instructor, teaching journalism, speech and writing at the high school and college level. She was also a nationally recognized competitive speaking coach for years, giving her a unique perspective on book pitches. 


    By Holly Lorincz

    The brilliant Chip MacGregor (the man who signs my checks) recently posted an article regarding what agents look for when they attend writing conferences. I would like to extend his comments on pitches, since many of you are getting ready for RWA.

    When was the last time you were at a conference, pitching? Sitting in a hotel banquet room crowded with tables and sweaty, nervous writers? I’m not saying that to be judgmental . . . I’ve been that sweaty, nervous writer hoping to win over an agent with my charm, if not my book. I went in with my satchel stuffed with one-sheets, copies of the synopsis and the first fifty pages. I’d even made up clever business cards. I was dressed in a skirt and heels, making sure I didn’t look stupid even if I said something stupid. Which, with me, was bound to happen. And knowing that, I practiced the heck out of my pitch, making sure I sounded comfortable and natural (though completely memorized) while describing the hook and major premise in less than two minutes. I made sure the agents/editors I was signed up to talk to were actually looking for books in my genre, checked out their bios so I could try to figure out what they might be interested in. Oh, I had done my research. I was prepared.

    Shockingly, a good chunk of the writers were less prepared. Or not prepared at all. They were using their expensive

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  • July 2, 2013

    The “b” word …



    School is out, summertime is upon us all, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who has heard the “b” word from their kids more than once recently. I’ll confess, I used to hate it and get terribly frustrated when my son would utter it. Lately, though, I actually find myself smiling when he uses it. And I’ve been looking for opportunities to use the word myself. 

    I think you should too.

    In our house, the “b” word is spelled B-O-R-E-D.

    I want to challenge you to actually try embracing it and exercising the meaning of the word. As in doing nothing on purpose, and sitting still through the restlessness until you feel like you did the last time you said “there’s nothing to do! I’m bored!” (And … I wonder, how long has THAT been?)

    I also wonder if the reality that being, and staying busy – just for the sake of not being still – is potentially one of the most overrated endeavors humans undertake. To that point, I agree with several of the ideas in this article on the topic of being caught in “The Busy Trap.”

    I’ll admit, not producing is one of the hardest things for me to do, er, not do. Or not, not do.  Ack. You know what I mean.

    Sometimes, after dinner, when my son says, “Mom, just sit down with us,” or my husband suggests we go for a bike ride or walk the dog, I usually have a long list of reasons why I shouldn’t. Emails I should write or answer. Calls I should schedule. Manuscripts I should look at. I’m a hard worker. I naturally gravitate to being productive. It’s just who I am.

    Or is it just what I do?

    Recently, I’ve begun to realize that pursuing a state of boredom/idleness/stillness is the best antidote to the “crazy busy, purpose-driven over-achieving” state of

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  • February 7, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: 10 Prize Ideas for Giveaways or Contests


    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.

    Next week, I’ll revisit those social media critiques we were working through, but in them meantime, I thought it would be fun to list a smattering of prize ideas for giveaways…prizes that won’t cost you a fortune.

    1. Gift cards
    2. Coupons for ebooks (could be novellas, shorts, etc. that you have self-published)
    3. The chance to name a character (may only work for established authors, but the idea is the winner gets to name a character in an upcoming book)
    4. Twenty minute Skype call with the author
    5. Free book
    6. A book dedication
    7. A shout-out in the Acknowledgements section
    8. A “fan of the year” or “fan of the month” badge for their blog/website
    9. Book tchotchkes in the form of PDFs that you email to winners, such as paper dolls (for childrens or romance genres), detailed world maps (for speculative fiction genres), recipes (for historical genres, etc), paper crafts/Cubeecrafts (for childrens or speculative genres), basically anything that either appeals to readers’ children/grandchildren or to the inner nerd or hobbyist. This idea may cost a bit of money up front, but the long-term use makes it worth it.
    10. Themed gift baskets that tie in with your novel, such as gardening theme baskets for gardening cozy mysteries, etc.

    What else? What other great giveaway prizes can you think of (aside from huge doorbusters, like iPads).

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  • February 27, 2012

    What does an author need to ask about book contracts? (Part 1)


    Every once in a while, I'll set a contract in front of an author, and he or she will say, "Just tell me where to sign." I have to explain that they need to know what they're signing. The fact is, every clause in a contract can be deemed important, if you consider it's a legal document that will govern everything about your book for as long as it's in print. So let me offer several questions an author ought to think about…

    1. What's the grant of rights? Your contract should ask you to grant specific rights to the publisher. Not "everything, always, in all circumstances." And rights not specifically granted to the publisher are to be retained by the author. Keep in mind that you (as the author) own the work — you're granting a license to a publisher for them to produce and sell copies of your work. So understand what you're granting them. 

    2. Is the wording clear? Know what you're signing. Understand the due date, the word count, the rights being granted. Some publishers have exceptionally easy-to-read contracts (Baker, Harlequin, and Harvest House are three that come to mind). Others can have contracts that read as though they were invented by lawyers for whom English is not their first language. If you don't understand what you're signing, ask questions. And let me offer a word of advice: If you have an agent, he or she ought to be able to explain what you're signing. If you don't have an agent, you can get help from a contract evaluation service, which will charge you a couple hundred bucks to review your contract and suggest changes. [You can also have a contracts or intellectual property rights attorney review the contract, but DON'T have him or her negotiate it for you. The moment they pick up that phone, the clock is ticking…and the longer they can keep

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  • January 27, 2012

    From Amanda: How to Format Your Manuscript for Submission and Kindle Upload


    Amanda 2 CropAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.

    First, I'd like to say I'm sorry for missing my post yesterday. I had some personal things come up and just didn't get around to it. So, we're going to take a slight detour this week, since I know there are a number of people who tune in specifically on Thursdays to hear about building author platform. And, well, we don't want them missing the next installment, now, do we?!

    So for today, I'd like to share links to a batch of really helpful tutorial videos my author, the fabulous Jill Williamson, put together. They cover everything you need to know to format your manuscript for submission.

    Formatting a Manuscript, Part 1: Page Set Up and Text–
    Formatting a Manuscript, Part 2: Page Breaks–
    Formatting a Manuscript, Part 3: Paragraphs–
    Formatting a Manuscript, Part 4: Cleaning things up–
    Formatting a Manuscript, Part 5: Page Numbers–
    In addition to this, Jill put together a series of videos for formatting your manuscript for upload on Amazon as a Kindle ebook.
    Formatting Your Manuscript for Amazon Kindle–PART 1–
    Using Mobipocket to Format Your Book For Kindle–PART 2–
    They're short and to the point…excellent references for anyone getting ready to do something with that polished, perfected manuscript.
    Do you know of any tutorials to add to this list? Tell us about them!
    And tune in next Thursday when we get back to our discussion on building platforms…the topic? Platform-building blogging. See you next week!
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  • July 22, 2010

    How to Study the Market


    Clovis asked, "If you are seeking a market for a particular idea, how do you study the market? What steps are critical in matching the work to the right publisher? How much do you rely on the guidelines, samples, catalogs, etc.? And what other sources are helpful?"

    My answer: If you want to take steps like this , get to know the industry. I can think of a number of things that would help a writer do that…

    1. Read frequently.

    2. Read outside your genre (for example, if you’re a CBA person, read books outside of CBA).

    3. Study the bestseller lists (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, your local newspaper — all have them). Spend time on and to see what's selling.

    4. Note who publishes the books you read and the books on the bestseller lists. (In case you haven't figured it out, not all publishing houses were created equal.)

    5. Take a look at trade journals to find what's hot/what's not/what's happening. These journals would include Publishers Weekly, the email version of Publishers Daily, maybe Library Journal, or Christian Retailing, or Writers Digest, possibly Bookstore Journal. You may also glean some good information in some entertainment journals.

    6. Keeps tabs on the economic climate of publishing and bookselling. Right now everybody is talking about what bad shape the industry is in… but this year there will probably be more book pages published and sold than ever before in history.

    7. It's important that you study a publisher before sending anything to them. Harvest House may be the right place for your gift book, but it's the wrong place for your commentary on Habakkuk. So go to web sites and read catalogues to figure out who publishes what. If you research the house and its list, you'll be better able to target the right publisher.

    8. Check out market resources like the Writer's

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