Category : Agents

  • October 11, 2010

    Getting To Know Us


    We've had a bunch of "get to know you" questions lately, so I thought I'd group several of them together…

    Andrew wrote to say, "You used to be a publisher with Time-Warner — why did you go back to agenting?"


    I love agenting. I enjoy working closely with authors, doing book development, planning careers, and spending time talking over projects. Actually, I never really got comfortable in my role as publisher – I always felt like a “suit.” Much happier being back on the agenting side of the desk.  

    Janice asked this: "It seems like you and Sandra have had a lot of success in a short time — to what do you owe your success?"

     Most likely it’s my good looks and Scottish heritage. But aside from that, I have a pretty good eye for writing. And let’s face it – an agent is only as good as the authors he or she represents. If I’ve had good success, it’s because I’ve had the privilege of representing really good writers. Go to my web site, select any author, and read a novel… all of them can write. That’s the main reason I’ve been successful.  

    Jim wants to know, "What types of projects do you get excited about?"

    always tell authors at writers’ conferences that I’m looking for “books that change me.” It’s true. I get excited about reading a book that will leave me changed, since I know it will have the potential to significantly impact readers. I also look for a strong voice – your book shouldn’t sound like everyone else’s book. If there’s great writing, a strong voice, and a message that has the potential to change me as a reader, I know I’ve got a winner.

    Dana asked, "Are there stories that you know right away you're going to be tired of?"

    Sure – The tough-guy hero opens his eyes,
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  • September 1, 2010

    Talking Agents and Authors


     Suzanne wrote to ask, “How do agents feel about being ‘talked about’ by their clients? I rarely see published authors mention their agents in conversations, or hear them say, ‘My agent told me…’  Is there a protocol for mentioning your agent?”

    I think you should feel free to say, "Sandra Bishop is my agent” or “I’m represented by Amanda Luedeke.” Most agents don't mind at all being talked about by their authors. We might get nervous if you were giving it out to everyone at a conference ("Call my agent Chip with this idea – here’s his home number"), but aside from that, there's no problem with talking about your agent to people. However, if it makes you feel nervous, you can just pass around a note in gym class ("I like Chip – check X for 'yes' or Y for 'no'").

    Joni wrote and noted, “In a recent column, you said that agents prefer ‘proven authors.’ But then you went on to talk about how tough it is to get published without an agent. How can I be a ‘proven writer’ if I’m not published? How can I be a ‘proven writer’ if I don’t have an agent?”

    You know, on its face that might seem logically inconsistent… but it's not. At least, not in my view. What I mean by a "proven writer’ is someone who has proven themselves, whether by books, articles, a blog, e-zines, curricula, or what have you. Someone who has done enough writing to prove himself or herself to me. If you haven't proven you can write, then you're going to have a hard time finding an agent. That's what I meant. Not just proven by doing books, but proven as in "she has proved to everyone she can write, and she knows it."

    Writing fiction has its own set of issues, and it's very hard to prove yourself apart from doing some books.

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  • August 25, 2010

    On Relationships in Publishing


    Donna wrote to ask, "Is it possible to have two agents, one for fiction and one for nonfiction, or one for ABA and one for CBA?"

    It's possible, I guess. I'm not a fan of this plan, since I think it makes it harder for an agent to do his or her job in terms of career planning. Still, some people do it. The alternative? Find an agent who fits what you do. 

    Julie wrote with this: "Some agents have a large number of clients, and represent very successful authors. But where does the midlist client fit in today's market?"

    I think your question presupposes that having a small list of clients is a good thing — perhaps better than being part of a larger agency. In my view, it's not as simple as that. First of all, I don't think most authors would know what a large or small number of clients is. I represent around 40 or 50 authors. Is that large? Not in publishing — it's fairly small. But so what? You don't sign up with an agent because he or she has only five clients, do you? You sign up with an agent because he or she does a good job, knows how to help you, is a fit for you and your work, and can help make you successful. Move from the world of books to the world of investments for a moment – Would you prefer to hand your hard-earned money to a startup guy who admits he doesn't have many clients, or to somebody with a proven track record of success? (And I"m not making an argument for going with a big agency here — I'm just trying to show the weakness of this particular argument.) Janet Grant, a friend and a very good literary agent, and I are two of the people who have been agenting the longest in CBA. We've both seen

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  • July 16, 2010

    A Dirty Dozen Notes on Agents


    We had several interesting comments sent to us on that last post. Let me offer a dozen comments…

    1. One author's suggestion to "do your homework" before selecting an agent is key. DON'T sign up with somebody just because they say they're an agent and they want to represent you. I know that's a temptation, but this is a professional relationship. Would you go to a guy's office for your health problems just because he claims to be a doctor? Ask around. Check him out. This is the biggest mistake people make with agents, in my view. This past year at CBA you could toss a rock in the air and when it came down it would most likely hit somebody claiming to be an "agent." Um… these guys are going to be taking your ideas and helping you sign legal agreements regarding them. Don't take that lightly.

    2. Be wary of any agent who charges a fee or advertises what the charge is to work with them. That's a total violation of the guidelines for the Association of Author Representatives (and, in fact, those agents wouldn't be allowed as members of AAR). There are a couple relatively successful agencies in CBA who do that. It's unethical, and authors should stay away, if they want to keep from being scammed. On the other hand, I was VERY glad to have someone write and tell me that "Steve Laube is my agent and he's good." Don't we all get tired of people sort of beating around the bush, telling us one person is bad and another is good, but never mentioning names? The fact is, Steve IS good. So is Lee Hough and Janet Grant and Wendy Lawton and Rachelle Gardner and Natasha Kern and Greg Daniel and Karen Solem and Greg Johnson and Andrea Heinecke and Robert Wolgemuth and Sandra Bishop (the last works with me at MacGregor Literary). My

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  • July 12, 2010

    More on working with an agent…


    After my recent post on agenting, a couple people said they didn't see why anyone would need an agent. One author suggested that all you need is a good proposal, and another asked, "What can an agent do for a writer that s/he can't do for him/herself?" I have some answers…

    First, I'll admit that not everybody needs an agent. If you think you have the relationships and knowledge needed to succeed, then go ahead. There are authors who make that work. In my experience, most authors simply don't have the access to editors or the knowledge of contracts and negotiations they need to maximize their careers, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. It can. 

    Second, there is almost always wisdom in experienced counsel. That means a good agent should bring something to the table to assist with editing, writing, reading, negotiating, checking royalty statements, and marketing. I'm sorry to say I've heard from several authors who had bad experiences. Hey — it happens. The huge growth in Christian fiction over the past ten years led to a whole slug of people calling themselves "agents," but who didn't know what they were doing. One of the few good things that has come out of this lousy publishing economy we're experiencing is that many of those agents have dropped out, since they can no longer make a living at this business. As I noted previously, there are about 15 agents doing 95% of the CBA books.

    Third, a good agent will have relationships that will get their authors' proposals looked at by decision-makers… something that many authors simply don't have. (A clue when selecting an agent: find somebody who is well-thought-of by ack editors. Ask around. See who your agent has worked with, who he or she has done deals with, and if others in the industry respect them.) A good proposal often isn't enough…it's got to get through

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  • June 7, 2010

    We have big news …


    Amanda Luedeke is joining MacGregor Literary as an agent. This is a big step for us, and we're very excited.

    Amanda is a 2006 graduate of Taylor University’s Professional Writing program, headed by Dennis E. Hensley. She's got a long background in books and words, and this is a step she's been moving toward for the past year.

    Since her college graduation, Amanda has made her living as a full-time writer, freelancing for newspapers and marketing agencies as well as operating her own writing business. Her current full-time job is with a marketing group in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she writes and assists in the marketing strategy for clients such as Vera Bradley, Peg Perego and Baekgaard. Like both Chip and Sandra, Amanda understands what it takes to make a living as a writer.

    Amanda came on board with us a year ago as Chip’s assistant, and she's been going through the slush pile, helping out with research, and taking care of other odds and ends. We’ve really enjoyed her help here, but now that she’s gotten the hang of things, we’re excited to move her on to the next step – so she's becoming a literary agent.

    Amanda will be working with childrens, YA, speculative, and post-college-aged fiction and nonfiction. This is great for us, because we currently don’t have "specialists" in these areas. Bringing Amanda on will help expand our knowledge of the industry and allow us to take on more authors with differing interests. She's just getting started, and will focus her time on a handful of clients as she gets her feet wet. Amanda will also be helping us with our foreign deals — an area we've been wanting to expand in order to help authors maximize their income potential.

    She's going to be attending the ACFW conference with us in Indianapolis this summer, so if you write children's books (for either CBA or the general

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  • June 3, 2010

    Choosing and Finding an Agent


    Tracy asked, "How can I find an agent?"

    First, you should know that BEFORE seeking an agent, you should have an idea of what you're looking for. Different types of personalities require different types of agents. Some authors need a contracts manager, some need a career counselor, some need an editorial type, etc. If you haven't explored your own strengths and weaknesses a bit, if you don't know what sort of person you'd partner well with in a
    business relationship, and if you don't know what you actually need in a literary agent, I suggest spending time researching those issues.

    Second, go into this with your eyes open. Be aware that there are no requirements to call yourself a literary agent — so I've seen complete dipsticks try to pawn themselves off as agents. And…it's not like I can name then on a web site, since I'd quickly find my derriere in a sling. But don't take someone's word that they're good just because they say so. Check out their reputation. Learn to ask good questions (like "who do you represent?' and "what books have you contracted in the past year?" and "who did you contract those books with?").

    Third, you can find lists of agents in books like the Writers Digest Guide to Literary Agents. (There are numerous others — check on or go to any big bookstores and look in the "writing reference" section.) Sally Stuart's Christian Writers Market Guide has a list of agents who focus on the CBA. Some other organizations (such as the Writers Information Network) post a list of "approved"

    Fourth, you can search some of the helpful web sites, including some that name names on the real stinkers (such as Writer Beware and Predators and Editors).

    Fifth, if you subscribe to Publishers Lunch and Publishers Marketplace (and if you're planning a career in writing, you should consider doing so, just

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  • May 17, 2010

    A Bit About How I Got into Agenting


    William wrote and asked, “Can you tell us why you became an agent?”

    Okay…I got into agenting by accident. I was making my living as a freelance writer, collaborating on books with some great Christian speakers (David Jeremiah, Bruce Wilkinson, Howard Hendricks, Joe Stowell, etc). I had worked as an editor, and knew about writing books, so I felt confident about the "word" side. But something had always stuck in my craw—the fact that when I did my first book
    deal, I simply didn't know what I was doing. The editor called me on the phone, made me an offer, and…I was stumped. I had no context for deciding. Was this a good deal? A bad deal? Normal? Incredible? No idea. So I said yes, wrote the book, and started doing my research on the "business" side.

    Over the next couple of years, I got a great education. I learned about printing and publishing. I studied contracts and read up on intellectual property rights. I did my doctoral work in Organizational Development, so I'm fairly well organized, and good at seeing the big picture. I began doing talks at writer conferences about "how to make a living writing" and "how to get your writer's business going." Pretty soon writers were asking me things like, "Would you take a look at this contract?" and "How would you handle this publishing situation?" In essence, I became an agent without realizing that's what I was doing. (And I was doing it for free!)

    The thing is, I have always had a heart for mentoring/discipleship. It's sort of been my ministry, and since I've spent my life as a words guy, I was naturally drawn to helping writers with things like career decisions, contracts, and proposals. And I suppose if I have a strength (a topic that could be debated), it would be simply that I get along with people. So pretty soon I

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  • April 28, 2010

    Amanda (Chip's assistant) steps in…


    Let's talk a bit about what I call The Christian Connection.

    I've seen it one too many times: Some Christian writer with big-time aspirations discovers that Chip, one of the top agents in the business, is also a Christian. Ba-da-boom, the query is sent, the correlation made, and the aspiring author sits back patiently awaiting Chip's acceptance.

    And then they're rejected.

    They slump in their chair, defeated. Demoralized. Because it was meant to be.

    And now they'll have to venture out into the cold, dark world of the eternally damned.

    Give me a break. 

    We all know finding the right agent is about more than your personal belief system. It's about how you interact, what your expectations are, what work you produce, and whether you feel any chemistry. Authors who rely on the Christian Connection generally miss this whole concept. And I'm really fine with that. I am. It's their loss.

    What I'm not fine with is how the Christian Connection communicates a general fear of interacting with the unsaved.

    I feel it in the twelve exclamation points that follow each reference to Christianity. I see it in the continual reminder that God's will must be at work, bringing two like-minded professionals together like this. And it bothers me. Aren't we to be salt and light?

    But what if my agent swears?! Drinks?!! Cheats?!!! Or does all three while I'm meeting him at a club in Las Vegas?!!!!

    Here's the bottom line. Chip likes representing other Christians. He really does. And there are times when the connection is there and there's no doubt that he should represent another Christ-follower. But  when it comes down to it, well … If Tony Dungy (former coach of the Indiana Colts) put each and every Christian football player he ever met on his team, do you think they would have won the championship? Do you think they would have even come close?


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  • April 22, 2010

    Agent Questions (and cool news!)


    Darlene asked an agent question: "I've been working with an agent I was introduced to at a conference, but I'm not sure she knows what she's doing…nor do I know what she should be doing for me. It seems like I basically did the deal myself. Can you help me?"

    Sure. A good agent should (1) give you career advice, (2) introduce you to people you don't already have connections with, such as editors and publishers and marketers, (3) offer wisdom on book ideas and writing, (4) help give guidance on your marketing, (5) negotiate your contract [and do a good job of it], (6) ensure contract compliance, and (7) be your insider — the person who knows the industry and offers some experienced wisdom, serving as your advocate when necessary, taking on the hard issues and conversations when necessary. I suppose many times the agent also serves as the author's friend and encourager, though that doesn't always happen. If you ended up basically doing the deal yourself — well, that's a shame. It happens sometimes, but you probably need to have a conversation with the agent and clarify expectations, Darlene. 

    Bobbie asked this: "How do agents feel about writers following up on a query or proposal submission? What is an acceptable time period to wait before following up?"

    Well, I TRY to get back to people within three weeks. The fact is, I’m often much faster. But I'll admit that 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!”). Those folks have forgotten that I don’t owe them a reading. If I agree to read their proposal, it’s because I choose to. (Sorry if I sound cranky, but I got two of these today, from two people I’ve never heard of. My first reaction is to say something snarky like, “Okay, if you’re

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