Category : Conferences

  • March 27, 2013

    What makes a good writing workshop? (A guest blog)


    Thinking about that first all-day writing workshop I was paid to speak at still makes me cringe. I don’t know how the organizer found out about me, but she invited me to speak, and made me sound really good in the glossy colored brochures she printed.  This workshop was going to draw a crowd.  We might have to add more chairs to the hotel’s conference room.

    What a disappointment when the day before the event, she was begging people to come, even letting them in for free.  These people had no idea who I was and the big bucks the organizer was charging was too much for those she had targeted. I know that in the end, the only big thing about the workshop was that she lost big money.

    But that experience taught me. Ten years later as I set out to conduct my own all-day writing workshops, I had that first workshop experience in mind.  I focused on what the organizer had done right and especially on what she had done wrong. They say bad experience is a good teacher— or something like that. Some thoughts on creating a good workshop…

    Plan in advance Don’t think of an idea and then have a workshop the next Saturday.  Plan at least three to four months ahead. A Saturday far from any holiday is good. Avoid the Christmas or New Year season. Ask potential attendees to choose between two or three dates that suit them best. Spend hours working on all aspects of the workshop. Will you serve lunch? Snacks? Coffee?

    Book a choice location – This should be easily accessible. Where I live, I like the Hampton Inn and Suites in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a variety of reasons from the inviting lounge to the cushioned chairs in the conference room to the mints they place in bowls at each table to the outdoor garden where attendees can

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  • March 18, 2013

    How can I get exposure for my book?


    A writer got in touch and 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?”

    As I’ve noted several times on this blog, the key principle for anybody doing marketing of their own book is simple: Figure out where your potential readers are going, then go stand in front of them. If you’re doing a book on lowering cholesterol, research to find out what websites people with high cholesterol are visiting, what blogs they’re reading, what magazines and e-zines they’re checking out, what the most popular sites for information sharing are. That’s the first step. The second is to get yourself involved with those venues. That will get you started on marketing. (And be sure to read Amanda’s Thursday blog posts, which are filled with good, practical ideas to help you move forward in your marketing abilities.) 

    Now you have the tools you need to create a plan. You’ve got a list of the places people who are interested in your topic are going online, and you’ve got a list of ways you can try and get involved in those sites (by writing articles, doing reviews, creating an interview, offering a chapter of your book, etc). The next step is to start the hard work of getting your words out there.

    On a related note, someone wrote these words: “You have frequently told authors to find out where the potential readers are, then go get in front of them. How can an author find the target audience for his book?”

    Research, my friend. It will take time, but start checking out key words and topics. Find other books and sites that cover similar material and check them out. Start doing reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. Get involved with Pinterest and Flickr. Create online bookmarks. Join Facebook and Twitter. Begin researching your topic and you’ll

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  • March 1, 2013

    How do you know which agents will work hard for you?


    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
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  • February 4, 2013

    What's going on in the world of publishing?


    I normally just offer advice about publishing careers on this blog, but occasionally I feel a need to mention things happening that everyone in the industry is talking about. So let’s digress today on a couple quick items…

    1. The 2012 numbers are in, and they’re interesting… There were only three adult fiction titles last year that sold more than a million copies, and they were all written by E.L. James. (Soft core porn rules, apparently.) Those were also the only “romance” novels that hit the million mark. There were four children’s fiction titles that sold more than a million copies, and three of them were written by Suzanne Collins. (Hunger Games also rule — the fourth was the most recent Diary of a Wimpy Kid Who Would’ve Quickly Been Killed In The Hunger Games.) There were no nonfiction titles that hit the magic number (NO EASY DAY came very close), nor cookbooks, biographies, sci-fi novels, business titles… Not even a memoir. I’m still waiting for all the final numbers to show up, but it looks like this will be the smallest number of million-sellers we’ve had in years.

    2. And yet… book sales are doing fine. One study showed they were down 4% in 2012, another that they were up a bit more than 1%. Either way, overall book sales are holding fairly steady. There are more readers than ever before, and there are more books being produced than ever before — the numbers are just more spread out, with the vast quantities of ebooks now being offered at Amazon and B& So take heart — it’s still a great time to be a writer. We read all the time — on our Nooks & Kindles, on our laptops & Smartphones, on our email and web accounts. Don’t believe the gloomy people who keep preaching The End Of Publishing As We Know It.

    3. I have now had more

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  • December 3, 2012

    Can I meet good agents at a writing conference?


    Someone wrote to say, “Authors spend big bucks to attend writers’ conferences and meet agents. Are most agents checked out and invited to participate because they have good reputations?”

    I think every conference director wants to offer the best faculty possible. None of them are going to bring in an agent who is a known scam artist. Everybody wants to bring in quality faculty, and a writing conference is generally a good place to meet agents. (In fact, it’s often one of the few places left where you can be face-to-face with literary agents.)

    That said, I’ve been on the faculty at more than 100 writing conferences, and on occasion I’ve certainly shared the stage with some agents who don’t know what they’re doing. (And in re-reading that, yes, I realize I sound like an arrogant putz. Sorry.) If you’re going to a conference and planning to meet agents, check them out. Look at their websites, check Preditors & Editors and Writer Beware, talk to editors and authors at the conference. Most importantly, ask questions of the agent. Who do they represent, what types of books have they placed, who have they done deals with, how many deals have they done recently, how long have they been in business, do they charge fees,what is their policy on collecting and distributing funds, what commissions do they earn, etc. (If you look through my previous “agents” posts, you’ll find a number of questions to ask.) Just because a guy shows up at investment seminar doesn’t make him a millionaire, and just because a guy shows up wearing an “agent” badge at a conference doesn’t make him a legitimate agent.

    You can still meet good agents at a writing conference, but you need to do your homework to make sure you meet someone who is a potential fit for you and your work.

    And someone asked, “If I meet an agent, is it

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  • November 19, 2012

    Career Planning in the Wild, Wild West



    While on an agent’s panel at ACFW in September, I sat next to Lee Hough, one of the smartest and hardest working agents in the business. While we all fielded the typical questions we get as panelists, someone asked a question about the current state of affairs in publishing, and how agents are faring.

     I tend to take a positive, entrepreneurial, and philosophical approach when answering questions about the challenges of publishing.

    Lee, however, hit the mark when he said “It’s like the wild, wild west out there right now.” His summation about the new landscape of publishing has really stuck with me. In fact, it’s a new constant on the landscape of my daily work life these days — right alongside MacGregor Literary’s long-standing company philosophy that “good is always better than fast.”

    As positive as I try to remain, I’ll admit, it’s felt exceptionally difficult to place books and find homes for authors these past few months. Even with the successes I’ve enjoyed this year in spite of it all, it feels like I’m on more uneven ground than ever. And I know agents aren’t the only ones who feel this way.

    Marketers are constantly scrambling to orient themselves to what it takes to get readers to buy in a noisy online environment. Sales teams are faced with succeeding in spite of the literal crumbling of their brick & mortar customer base. Publicists are being asked to do more with less. Editors are overworked. Authors are no longer just invited by publishers to help market their books, but are expected to do so. In fact more and more, the strength of an author’s proposal is weighed as much for the type and number of readers they bring to the table as it is for the quality of their writing. Maybe more.

    Top that off with the consideration that authors are not only competing with other authors for

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  • August 16, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: Promoting Yourself at a Conference Part 4


    Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda 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.

    You have your career focus. You have your brand. So how do you maximize time at a conference and make sure to come away from the event with more readers than when you went in?

    As usual, I’ve got a smattering of ideas…

    How to Promote Yourself at a Writer’s Conference

    1) Go all-out with brand. So let’s say your brand involves wearing purple shoes…that’s how people are going to remember you, and it’s fitting, since you write romantic comedy. All your materials (your business cards, one-sheets, web addresses, web sites) should support this brand. This is because people aren’t going to come away from the conference, thinking I really liked Halee Matthews. They’re going to think, I really liked that writer with the purple shoes. And they’ll dig through their stack of cards/one-sheets/odds and ends LOOKING for those purple shoes. If they don’t see them, you’ll disappear.

    2) Meet people. As writers, it’s easy to latch on to one or two people at a conference and call it a day. That’s because most of us are introverts. But if you’re serious about getting people on board with your writing (whether you’re published or unpublished), you need to branch out. Sit at a different table every meal. Form relationships with the people sitting next to you in workshops. Attend the parties and the late-night gatherings. It will be exhausting, but it’s exactly what you need to do to spread awareness.

    3) Talk about yourself. I don’t mean force people to listen to your book premise or your publishing history. I’m just talking about having some rehearsed and appropriate ways of bringing your book up in

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  • August 9, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: Promoting Yourself at a Conference Part 3


    Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda 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.

    Last week, we started to touch on brand and how a great brand can help you stand out at a conference. If you didn’t catch his posts, Chip’s been talking about brand as well over the past few days. His first post on author branding is here and his second is here.

    Take a minute to read through those. There’s quite a bit of good content there, and “brand” really is so important these days.

    So clearly, one of the first things you want when promoting yourself at a conference, is a brand. A promise. Clarity on who you are as a writer and what kind of content you produce. Whether you’re published or not, the same is true…you want to communicate what you’re about so that the right readers and the right supporters are attracted to you.

    Which leads us to not only a vital piece of the conference puzzle, but a major piece of the author career puzzle: who is your target audience? and what is your genre?

    The last thing you want is to walk around a conference, declaring yourself the author of historicals, YA, thrillers and picture books. Not only will your conference experience lack focus, but every professional who comes in contact with you won’t take you seriously. And every potential reader you meet is going to wonder whether they’ll have to wade through a bunch of historical or YA muck to get to your Thriller stuff (and so on).

    I argue this at least once every conference when meeting with authors…careers aren’t made by dabbling in multiple genres. Careers are made by focusing on ONE genre, to ONE audience type.

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  • August 6, 2012

    How can I get the most out of a writing conference?


    As you begin preparing for this year’s summer conferences, I’d like to suggest you keep ten words in mind…

    1. READ. Don’t just show up and wonder who the speakers are. Read the blog of the keynote speakers. Read the books of the workshop teachers. That way, when you get to hear them, you’ll already have a context for their information.

    2. RESEARCH. If you’ve signed up to meet with an agent or editor, check out their bio, see what they’ve acquired, and get a feel for the sort of books they like. By doing that, you’ll be much more apt to talk with someone who is a fit for you and your work.

    3. ORGANIZE. Before you show up at the conference, look at the schedule and figure out what sessions you’ll be going to, which ones you’ll miss (so that you can share notes later), and when you can take a break to see friends.

    4. PRACTICE. When you sit down across from me in order to tell me about your book, it shouldn’t be an off-the-cuff conversation. Practice what you want to say, how you want to describe your work, and what your hook is so that you’ll grab me.

    5. GOALS. Ask yourself what your goals are for this year’s conference. Don’t just go with bland hopes. Plan to attend with some specific, measurable goals in mind. Write them down beforehand, so that you can evaluate yourself and your experience after you’re back home.

    6. PROJECT. Come to the conference with a book you’re writing firmly in your mind. That way, when you’re listening to a speaker, you can apply the information to the project you’re writing. Even if you later decide to write something else, the fact that you’ve put the techniques into practice will help you improve.

    7. NOTE. Don’t just sit there in workshops and nod at the things you agree with. Take

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  • August 3, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: Promoting Yourself at a Conference Part 2



    Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda 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.

    I’m doing the conference thing again this week, so I’m going to continue the discussion on promoting yourself at a conference with a little story…

    Long, long ago, at an ACFW far, far away, there was a young woman with purple shoes. Now these weren’t just any purple shoes; they were magic purple shoes. Shoes that caused every agent and editor in the land to take notice of this young, unpublished writer.

    Now ACFW was full of blossoming writers–writers with hopes and dreams. Writers who threatened to steal the attention of the agents and editors. But as dusk turned to dawn on the final day of ACFW and the agents and editors went back to their homes and families, there was one aspiring author who the agents and editors remembered. One who stood out among all of the new writers in the land.

    It was the girl with purple shoes. Because not only had she worn purple shoes…her business card and website also carried her purple shoe brand.

    Let this be a lesson to you … branding can help you stand apart from the crowd. Even if you’re a new writer. And if you’re consistent with it…if you let it infiltrate your online presence, agents and editors will take note. Just like we at MacGregor Literary and some editors at big CBA houses took note of Halee Matthews, the girl with the purple shoes.

    What are your ideas for making yourself stand out at conference? It doesn’t have to be a physical trait…it can be a great book title, a tagline…really anything that’s different and unique but still professional.


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