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Category : Career
Someone wrote to ask, “What is the most important thing I need to know about marketing my book?”
To me, the most important thing for you to grasp as an author is that you are responsible for marketing your book. Not the publicist. Not the marketing manager. Not even the publishing house. YOU.
Think of it this way: Who has the most at stake with this book, you or the publisher? (You do.) Who is more passionate about it, you or the publisher? (You are.) Who knows the message best, you or the publisher? (You.) I think an author should work with his or her publisher’s marketing department as much as possible. Make yourself available. Say “yes” to everything they ask. Express appreciation every time they do something that helps market your book. But then go do everything as though it all depended on you, because it does. Whatever the publicist does for you is gravy. YOU are responsible for marketing your own book. Don’t leave it to some young college grad who has 17 other projects to market.
Someone else asked, “Since it seems like anyone can get a book published today through self-publishers, how do I make sure my book gets the needed exposure?”
I’m one of those who thinks that many self-published books don’t really seem as if they are really “published.” They post their book on Amazon, then sit and watch it not sell. And most people who actually self-publish (that is, pay to have an ink-and-paper book, rather than just an ebook) lose money because they don’t know how to market and sell their own book. So if you want to really sell some copies, whether you are self-pubbed or published through a regular royalty-paying publisher, you’ve got to understand basic marketing principles. I suggest authors purchase some basic marketing books (such as a textbook from Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong, or Frances Brassington and
We’re continuing our “ask an agent anything” series, where I’m trying to offer some short answers to your general publishing questions. If you’ve got a question you’ve always wanted to ask an agent, send it to me or leave it in the “comments” section. One reader wrote to ask, “What is “voice” in writing? “
Voice is the personality of the author, expressed through words on the page. When you write, your word choices, your phrasing and structure, your thinking and themes — they all help establish your personality as a writer. So the way I write is different from the way someone else writes — my personality comes through, and shows how I’m different and unique as a writer. (An example: Stephen King and William Faulkner both like long sentences, psychological implications, semicolons, and the use of the word “and” in their works… but nobody ever picked up a Stephen King novel and mistook it for a William Faulkner novel. Though they share some characteristics, each writer has his own personality, and that comes through on the page.) Of course, not every writing voice is good — just as not every singing voice is good. A great writer has a voice that is appealing and interesting.
Similarly, another person asked, “How does a writer know when he has established a strong voice in his work?”
It takes time and effort. I’ve always thought a writer recognizes his or her own voice over time, so the more you write, the better you hear yourself in your words. My experience is that, as I write more and more, my personality becomes clear on the page. When we talk, your words don’t sound like mine. Your stories don’t sound like mine. Your personality is unique, and getting that to be clearly expressed on the page will help you define your voice. (So, for example, when I tell my story of being
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 book on author marketing, The Extroverted Writer, releases March 15.
I usually post marketing and platform-building stuff, but today I’m gonna get all warm and fuzzy on you. Because, well…I think it’s high time for a pep talk.
As an agent, I see lots and lots and LOTS of rejection on behalf of my authors. There are days when the rejections just seem to roll in, and the very relationships that I’d been counting on coming through for me don’t. So then I have to go to the author, explain the rejection, and try to help them through it.
And here’s what I’ve noticed…too many times, authors look to editors and big publishing houses to validate their ability as writers.
So when the rejections come in, it’s so common for authors to begin doubting and questioning and “oh, if I can just fix that one thing…tweak that one chapter…” I’ve seen this happen over and over, and you know what? I’M SICK OF IT.
When you’re on my side of the desk, the picture is much bigger. Yes, there are lots of rejections…sometimes for good reason. But there are also AMAZING books that never get picked up. Blame it on timing, budget constraints, weird personal preferences, or a bad day at the office, but it’s true. There are great novels and book ideas that don’t receive offers. They don’t see that one “yes” that makes all of the rejections fizzle into nothingness. So for me to say that a string of rejections from editors means that there’s something wrong with my author or their writing or their ability would be to say there’s something “wrong”
I’ve been trying to answer a backlog of questions writers have sent my way, so we’re doing some short-answer blog posts for a while. For example, one person asked, “At what point in the process does an agent want to see a book proposal? After the book is completed?”
Most agents will look at a nonfiction book proposal before the book is completed, but after the author has figured out what he or she wants to say. That is, the author has figured out the question and the answer, and has tried to put some structure (in terms of an outline or table of contents) to the material. With a fiction proposal, most agents want to see a synopsis or overview, just to know what the basic story is, then the first ten to fifty pages, to see if the author can write. If the agent reads a portion and likes it, he or she will probably ask for the rest of the manuscript.
Someone else asked, “I’ve been told the internet has killed nonfiction… Is nonfiction really dead? It seems like most of the questions you get have to do with fiction.”
My wife was cooking an East Indian dish the other day, and needed a recipe. Where did she go? To a cookbook? Nope, she went online. I was looking for the answer to a port wine question yesterday. Did I look at one of my wine books? Nope, I went to the web. The internet has made basic information available on every topic to anyone with a computer. That puts the core of nonfiction at risk. I think this points to a major shift we’re seeing in publishing — away from much nonfiction in traditional print form. There will still be plenty of nonfiction that sees print (history, memoir, and much of the “literary” side of writing), but a lot of the how-to side is quickly shifting
I’ve been going through a long list of questions people have sent in, trying to offer short answers (as compared to my usual loquacious responses). One person wrote this: “I’m interested in getting an agent. How do you know which agent will work hard for you? For that matter, how can an author know which agents the publishers view as legit?”
If you want to know about an agent, you can always start by asking around. Ask publishers and editors in confidence what they think. Go onto the agency website and check the agent out. Check with “Predators & Editors” and “Writer Beware” to see which agents are not considered legit. Look into “Agent Query” and the other agency-ranking organizations. Pick up a copy of Chuck Sambuccino’s Guide to Literary Agents so you can do some research into the agent. In my opinion, you should look for an agent that’s a member of the Association of Author Representatives (AAR), the professional organization for literary agents. To see if the agent will work hard for you, all you have to do is to see which authors are happy and which agents are doing deals — you can find information on the number of deals done by an agent in the “Dealmakers” section of Publishers Marketplace. A lot of people will just tell you to “talk with other authors,” but I find that less than helpful. First, most people don’t want to say bad things about an agent, or worry that saying something honest will lead to a lawsuit. Second, many authors don’t often know a good agent from a bad one — if their agent got them a deal, they’re happy. I know some authors who have a lousy literary agent, but they’re completely satisfied because they don’t have anything to judge it against.Another writer sent me this: “I’m a beginning author, have written a novel, and want to
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.
Have you enjoyed our Thursday chats on marketing, promotions, and platform-building? I sure have! But so many times it feels as though I’m cramming info into my posts or even breezing over content. And what’s worse, is it’s become clear to me that this site doesn’t exactly make it easy to dig through my old posts!
So, I have some exciting news!
I’ve written a book ALL ABOUT how to use the Internet to grow an author platform! Here’s a peek at the cover:
From websites to Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest and more, I cover the essential topics, pulling from some of my best posts while also adding in plenty of new content. Whether you’re a social media newbie or guru, an unpublished writer or an industry veteran you’ll come away with actionable items that you can put into practice now.
THE EXTROVERTED WRITER: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform releases March 15 on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, and Smashwords (for ePub version or all other ebook devices). For now, it will be only available as an ebook.
If you’d like to recieve a notice when the book is available, sign up for the newsletter here. (It’s not the fanciest newsletter provider, btw. So don’t judge me!).
Please share this post with your friends! AND if you’ve been a fan of Thursdays with Amanda and would like to offer an endorsement, hit me up at ExtrovertedWriter@gmail.com. I’m hoping to receive testimonies from writers in all walks of life, published or unpublished, who can testify that my Thursday with Amanda tips help make their social media platforms stronger.
Thank you all, and let me know
Someone wrote this: “My friend wants to be a freelance editor. What advice would you have for her?”
Right now it’s a tough time to be a freelancer in book publishing. The publishing economy has been down, it’s hit publishers hard, and there are a lot of out-of-work editors and writers who are trying to freelance. (I just spoke with a publisher at a conference who told me she’s got a long list of good freelance editors she can’t use.) So that’s the bad news. The good news is that if your friend is willing to move away from strictly book publishing, there are plenty of opportunities. Every company on the planet is putting together content for their website, and somebody has to write and edit all those pages. Consider talking with businesses (or with the marketing and ad agencies that assist businesses) about providing writing and editorial help.
One thing that has long been true in publishing is that good copyeditors are hard to find (and even harder to keep, since they generally get bored and want to move on to substantive editing). If you’re well-grounded in grammar, can spell well, and have a basic sense of what makes writing work, you might consider taking a class in copyediting, either online or through a local college. Emerson University, long a leader in programs for those interested in publishing and communication, now offers a certificate in copyediting, with classes in grammar, clarity, fact-checking, indexing, and using bias-free language.
I think the best introduction to the role is still the Dummy’s book — Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies, which I liked so much I used as a textbook in the Intro to Editing class I taught. But there are other books you should be familiar with — The Chicago Manual of Style is the bible for book editing, while The AP Stylebook is the choice for magazines. So if you’re
Someone wrote to ask, “Can you tell me what a good author/agent relationship should look like?”
I can try. Keep in mind that there’s no “perfect agent style” that suits everyone. One writer needs an agent who is a strong editor-and-story-idea person, another writer needs an agent who is a contracts-and-negotiation person, and a third writer needs an agent who is counselor-and-chief-supporter. It’s why I always encourage authors to think carefully about what they need in a literary agent. I consider myself a good agent, having done this job for a longtime, contracted a lot of books, and developed a good track record of success. But I’ll be the first to say I’m not the agent for everybody. My style doesn’t fit every author, nor can I provide everything each author needs. So sometimes I’ll meet a writer whose work I like, but we’ll both feel the vibe is wrong. We have to get along personally as well as professionally. Other times the author has expectations I know I can’t meet (such as wanting me to edit their entire manuscript). So finding a “good” agent is like finding a “good” friend — what works for you might not work for your neighbor.
A good author/agent relationship is usually one in which expectations are clear, and the agent helps the author succeed in those areas they’ve decided to focus on. It might be story development, or editing and fine-tuning a manuscript, or support and encouragement, or career management, or contract advice, or… the list is as varied as authors want to make it. If you don’t really know what you need, you’ll find yourself just going toward someone you like, or someone your friends like.
Keep in mind that most working literary agents come from one of four backgrounds. They are either (1) a former editor, so they have strong words skills, or (2) a former writer, so they understand
You hear it all the time when people are trying to make sense of their trials in life…
“The struggles only made me stronger. I wouldn’t change a thing.” Maybe you’ve even said it to try and ease the pain of your writing journey.
While the first part of that statement may be true, struggles do make us stronger, to be honest, you wouldn’t change a thing? Really? Oh, I don’t know. I can probably go back through my entire life and finds things that I would change. But let’s focus on my publishing journey.
Would I change the fact I thought I had to shelve my writing for ten years while I raised my kids?
Yep, I wish I would’ve found the support of other writing women and organizations like ACFW sooner so I could slowly improve my craft instead of diving in like a mad woman (and messing up my priorities) when I thought the timing was right. Thankfully for young moms today, the internet is overflowing with helpful writing blogs and support groups. You don’t have to wait to write. I wish I would’ve had the resources ten years ago that you have today.
Would I change the fact I struggled to find the balance between writing, homeschooling, and life?
And still struggle to find the time to write while constantly feeling pulled in every direction? You betcha. It would’ve been much easier to figure it all out instantly and not have to continue to struggle in this area, but then again, I wouldn’t have founded Writer…Interrupted, a website where I encourage other busy, interrupted writers trying to balance life and this writing thing.
Would I change seven years of writing rejections and heartache?
Okay, that’s a no brainer! But it only made me stronger, right?
What about changing the years I spent doubting my abilities
Someone asked, “What advice can you give those of us who want to make a living as collaborative writers?”
You may not know this, but I made my living as a collaborative writer for years. I was successful at it, and learned some important lessons, so I’m always happy to talk with writers who want to do some collab work. There are a couple lessons I learned…
First, writing speed matters. You see, not everybody works at the same pace. I can bang out words by the pound. It’s obvious Cecil Murphey can. Susy Flory, David Thomas, Mike Yorkey, Steve Halliday, Kenny Abraham, and the other folks in the business who make their living as collaborative writers all write with speed. (True story: When Harvest House Publishers came to me and asked if I’d write a “Y2K” book, I called a writing friend and we banged out 256 pages in 17 days. It sold more than 60,000 copies and, let’s face it, SAVED WESTERN CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT. If it hadn’t been for my book, we’d doubtless all be sitting in the dark and learning Chinese right now. You can thank me later.)
Anyway, most collaborators can bang out words quickly. And not every writer is built like that. It’s certainly not a bad thing if your writing speed is a bit slower, it’s just that you’ll have a harder time making a go of it as a collaborative writer, since being able to produce a lot of words quickly is essential. I find that most writers have a natural pace, and if you try to speed them up too much, they lose focus and quality. Writing fast is probably a necessity for most full-time writers, but it’s not some sort of saintly gift. Many great authors need adequate time. Lisa Samson, one of the best literary novelists in the business and an author I’ve long represented, is