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Category : Conferences
I’m taking the month of April and letting people send in ANY question they have about writing and publishing. If you could sit down for an hour over a beer with a literary agent, and ask him anything you wanted, what would you want to know? Here are questions I’ve been sent recently…
If I am offered a contract, should I then get an agent?
That depends on the situation. Although I’m a longtime literary agent, I’m not an agent-evangelist, insisting everyone needs an agent. So think about the big picture here — your agent didn’t discuss the idea with you, or help you sharpen your proposal, or introduce you to editors, or send it out to publishers, or offer career advice. Once you’re offered a contract, the agent is going to step into it and earn a commission. So here’s my thinking… IF the agent can bring value, in terms of doing a great negotiation, and improving the contract & terms, and getting involved in the marketing, and stepping in to help with dramatic and foreign rights, and offering advice for your future, then it might be worthwhile to have an agent step in. But if all he’s going to do is say “yes” to the offer, it may not be worth paying him 15%. Consider talking with a good contract evaluation service, which might only charge a couple hundred dollars. (Or you might talk with an attorney, but be careful — they tend to charge by the six-minute increment and want to keep the clock running, so it can be expensive. Maybe consider this option if you’ve got something complex, such as a series offer or a movie deal.) But don’t sign with someone just so you can have the honor of saying, “I have an agent!”
If my novel is women’s fiction, is it best to target a female agent?
It’s best to target an agent who
BY CHIP MACGREGOR
A new writing conference is fast approaching — and you’re invited.
On Saturday, February 15, I will be speaking at the Dallas Writers’ University. It’s a one-day event, with a rather intensive agenda:
- I’ll speak on “developing a book proposal that sells,” and the focus will be on giving practical, hands-on help to writers who want to create a proposal that will get noticed.
- I’ll also be speaking on “creating your long-term publishing strategy,” with an emphasis on traditional publishing, niche publishing, self-publishing, and alternative strategies for writers to make a living.
- Michelle Borquez, bestselling author and entrepreneur, will explore “building a platform around your concept.”
- There will be a Q&A time, and everybody there will have a face to face meeting with me sometime during the day.
- Finally, Michelle and I will be talking about the secret to success in contemporary publishing.
I’m really looking forward to this opportunity. I’ve largely taken time away from conferences the past couple years, but I love talking to authors about proposals and strategy. And you’re invited. Again, every participant gets face time with me, where we’ll be reviewing proposals and talking about next steps in a one-on-one setting. That means our space is limited to just 30 people.
Here’s the thing . . . there are a hundred conferences you can go to in order to get some basic information on writing. But if you really want to join a small group and find out how to create a book that will sell, make some money, and gain entry into the world of publishing by talking to some experienced people in the industry, I hope you’ll consider joining us. I don’t do many conferences anymore (and rarely do a writing conference), so I’m excited to be asked to be part of this one.
The event is going to be in the Dallas area, at a church in White
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.
Well, it’s not Thursday…it’s Friday, but for the sake of Brand you’ll have to suffer through my wrongly-titled post.
We’re all back from ACFW, which proved to be a bunch of fun, as always, but also quite interesting in terms of industry stuff. But something happened there that rarely ever happens at any conference…ever.
A literary agency threw a launch party.
You may have heard/read me talk about Playlist Fiction. In thinking about how to help the authors create awareness and buzz we considered what most publishers/authors consider. We considered running an ad. But let’s face it:
1. Ads are expensive
2. Ads get buried by other ads
3. Ads are forgetful
So when Chip asked me what my ideal method of creating buzz at ACFW would be, I said a party! Which of course meant it became my responsibility, but I took it on happily.
Here’s how I did it…
- We got some big names to agree to attend, and we asked them to read excerpts from the books our authors did
- We created invites (we had a Facebook event page, a physical paper invite, and we hit up the big My Book Therapy e-blast as well as a few blogs)
- We secured a local venue (Buca di Beppo) and promised free dessert (I mean hello! ACFW is 90% women. There was no way we could lose here)
- We got the go-ahead from the conference directors and made sure that our time slot wouldn’t interfere with ANYTHING
- We unashamedly mentioned the party during the agent panel
I’ve been trying to catch up on all the questions people have sent in, so let me share a handful of queries: “When speaking with an editor at a conference, what is the best way to approach the allotted 15 minutes? Do I focus on the editor and the titles she’s worked on? Do I focus on my novel? Do I bring a one sheet?”
The best way to approach your time at an editorial appointment is to do some research and practice. Check to make sure the editor you’re meeting actually acquires books in your genre. Find out what you can about the editor’s likes and dislikes. Then practice what you’re going to say — sharing your name, your book idea, the conflict, theme, genre,and hook. Be clear and succinct, and rehearse your talk out loud, so you know what it feels like to say the words. Be ready to engage in dialogue with the editor. Dress professionally, and bring some words to show them (many like a one-sheet; I prefer the first five pages). In my view, the focus of a successful editorial appointment is your book, so think through how to talk about your book in an engaging way without sounding like just another pitch.
Another person wrote to ask, “Should I pay more attention to a literary agent’s list of authors they represent, or to their agency’s list of authors? In other words, if a Big Deal Agency has bestselling authors, how much does that mean if the agent I’m talking to doesn’t represent any of those writers?”
That’s an interesting question, since every agency tries to promote their bestselling authors. I was at Alive Communications when we represented the Left Behind series that sold 70 million copies worldwide — and while I didn’t have much of anything to do with that series, I certainly mentioned that we represented it when I was a young agent
I just got back from a writing conference, and I kept track of several interesting questions that writers wanted to ask me…
“What is New Adult?”
A number of people asked me about this relatively new term — we’re using it in publishing to talk about books aimed at the 18-to-25 year old audience. These are basically readers who grew up buying “young adult” books (those aimed at the 13-to-18 year old audience), and they’re ready to move to new topics, but perhaps are looking for books that explore the transition from “young adult” issues to standard “adult” themes. So most of the “new adult” (or “NA”) titles focus on that transition — relationships, independence, identity, sexuality, empowerment, moving, career choices, etc. It’s a growing category in publishing, even if you may not have heard the term yet.
“If a publisher expresses interest in my manuscript at a conference, does that change the way I approach another editor or agent?”
I doubt it changes the way you approach other editors at a conference (and the words “another editor asked me to send it” tend to mean little, since every experienced conference faculty member can tell you that new writers tend to take ANY encouragement from an editor as “they love my book and are going to publish it!”). Most agents won’t be swayed by the thought that an editor asked to see your proposal, since the agent has to like it personally (I’d never agree to represent someone based on the fact that an editor liked the manuscript). So no, a publisher expressing interest at a conference, while certainly fun and encouraging for you, probably doesn’t mean you should change the way you approach others.
“If an editor asked me to send my manuscript at a conference, should I mention that in the query letter?”
If an editor asks you to send your manuscript to him or her, by all
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
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.
PITCHING: ARE YOU PREPARED?
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
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
I mentioned the other day that I’m going to be speaking at the Dallas Writers’ University on Saturday, May 4 — and someone wrote to ask, “Why are you doing a writers’ conference?”
The fact is, I rarely do many conferences these days. I’m busy with the authors I currently represent, and aside from RWA and ACFW, I don’t do many — certainly not many smaller conferences (I may go to Bouchercon later this year, but after that my dance card is filled up). But when the folks at the Writers’ University asked me about this, I liked the idea right away. It’s a one-day writing conference, focused on some one-to-one face time with authors, so it feels more personal. I’ll be talking about “Creating Your Publishing Strategy” and “Developing Book Proposals that Sell.” Other speakers include Jeane Wynn of Wynn-Wynn Media (a fabulous freelance marketing specialist who I’ve worked on numerous books with) and Michelle Borquez (who runs Bella Publishing and will be talking about “Building Your Author Platform”). There’s also going to be an attorney there, Gary Ashmore, talking about publishing contracts. It’s a great group, and I love the fact that they invited me to participate.
So last week I mentioned the big news: anyone who registers for the conference and mentions my blog gets a big discount. The normal price is $199 for the full day (that includes all the sessions, your lunch, a face-to-face meeting with me, and access to the other speakers). But if you want to come and you mention you saw this on Chip’s blog, you can attend for $159. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll consider coming. They tell me space is limited (I believe they have about ten spots left), and I’m doing this one because there are always a bunch of good writers in the Dallas area.
AND if you decide to register and let me know
THE POWER OF A PERSONAL MEETING
I haven’t traveled much in the last six months, but I’ve just returned from a three-day conference. Though I fully registered for it, I only attended two conference events, but my time there was incredibly valuable and enriching regardless.
Aside from the three-hour-thaw-by-the-pool-mini-sabbatical I scheduled for myself on Friday afternoon before boarding the plane home, I spent every waking hour while there in pre-arranged meetings with editors and authors. In the end, when responding to questions about how my trip went, I heard myself say “I really enjoyed connecting with everyone!” And I today, I added several items to my task list newly motivated by an urge to help each of these people succeed in their roles.
Sure, when I requested time together, I had a project in mind. But as usual, I found that holding “my” agenda a bit loosely, and taking the position of investigator vs. sales person always returned a rewarding and gratifying encounter that will begin, or enrich, a long-term relationship.
There’s so much more to personal meetings than just “putting a face to a name.” When I meet an editor or other prospective associate in person, the encounter requires real listening. I’ve learned that more often than not, my “canned” speech goes out the window in favor of personal dialogue once an editor or prospective author and I start talking about whether what’s working well for them and how/if what they’re hoping to publish next aligns with the project(s) I’m interested in.
A side perk of meeting in person is that, unlike with email, I must also practice the art of keeping the conversation going in both directions. I’ll admit, I’m still working on controlling my tendency to be so terribly interruptive – an inexcusable habit that I still give into when I’m especially enthused about something.
As anonymous, and bottom-line, and impersonal as this business can sometimes feel,