Category : Current Affairs

  • November 15, 2013

    What does it mean to "make a living" at writing?


    I’ve been talking about authors trying to make a living at writing recently, and a couple people have written to ask me, “When can I know I’m actually making a living with my words?”

    To me, the answer is personal. One author may feel she is making a living when she’s earning $1500 per month; another may feel she isn’t really making a living until she’s making $3000 per month. I think you have to pick an amount based on your own situation. What are your household income needs? What’s reasonable for you to earn over the course of a year? How much time do you have to devote to writing?

    When I started free-lancing, I was working other jobs (I hosted a radio show called “On the Record with Dr Chip MacGregor,” and taught some classes). At first my writing income was slim, but over time I had more writing and editing projects coming in, and I saw my monthly income from writing move from $100 to $300 to $500 to $1000 per month. I had a big jump from $1000 to $1500, then to $1800 per month. When I began making an average of $2000 per month, I realized I could make more money if I gave up my part-time jobs and just focused on the writing and editorial work. Granted, this was a number of years ago, but I had three kids and a mortgage payment, and making more than $2000 each month was enough to live on.

    So, as you look at your situation, how much do you need to make? You may choose to set a small goal from your writing at first, then grow it over time as your writing career moves forward. You have to begin to see “words” as “money” — that is, your writing having value. One of the things you’ll discover is that when you look at words that way,

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  • November 11, 2013

    The (new) MacGregor Theory of Making a Living


    A few years ago, I created a talk about how an author can make a living with his or her writing. I called it “The MacGregor Theory” (with apologies to the MacGregor who came up with all the Theory X and Theory Y stuff), and over the years it’s been picked up and discussed by all sorts of writers and editors  in the blogosphere. But now, with the changes we’ve seen in the world of publishing, it’s time I go back and revise my theory of making a living. So if you’ll indulge me…

    I have five rules for authors who want to make a full time living at writing:

    1. You need to have four-to-six books earning you a royalty. In other words, you’ve done books in the past, you’ve had some earn out, and you currently have some books that are making you a passive income.

    2. You need to have 18 months to 2 years of contracts. This is much harder to do in today’s publishing economy, but if you’re going to do this full time, you probably need to know clearly what you’re going to be writing for the next year or two. If you have your calendar filled up for the next 18 months with projects that are contracted, you’re at least afforded the clarity that comes from knowing what you’ll be working on.

    3. You need to be self-publishing. These days, most successful authors have generated some sort of income by self-publishing books, novels, novellas, articles, and/or short stories. This is a new piece of the plan (well… not to those of us who started out in this business writing magazine articles, but new to everyone else), and fairly essential to make enough money to live on. The days of surviving on book advances are over, for all but the A-list authors who are getting the mega deals. In today’s market you need to

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  • November 8, 2013

    SPREAD THE WORD! We’ve Moved.


    Earlier this year, our agency moved to the Oregon coast. We love the new digs! We’re less excited about how much mail is still being sent to our old office address.

    For all regular US mail please use this address:

    PO Box 1316, Manzanita, OR 97130
    If sending something via UPS or FEDEX, our office address is: 158 Laneda Avenue, Manzanita, OR 97130. Please don’t send mail to our street address as Manzanita only delivers to PO Boxes. All phone numbers and email addresses remain unchanged. But please update our mailing address. Thanks!
    And though it’s not always sunny in Manzanita, days like when this pic was snapped make up for it.











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  • October 29, 2013

    Spread the Word — We’ve Moved


    Earlier this year, our agency moved to the Oregon coast. We love the new digs! We’re less excited about how much mail is still being sent to our old office address.

    For all regular US mail please use this address:

    PO Box 1316, Manzanita, OR 97130

    If sending something via UPS or FEDEX, our office address is: 158 Laneda Avenue, Manzanita, OR 97130. Please don’t send mail to our street address as Manzanita only delivers to PO Boxes.
    And though it’s not always sunny in Manzanita, days like when this pic was snapped make up for it.

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  • October 26, 2013

    What did the publisher do to help make the novel succeed?


    Recently I had a couple writers ask me about two particular novels that did well in the market. In both cases I had been the agent for the books, and they wanted to know what the publisher had done to help make each book a success. I can think of a number of things that were done well, and I think they offer a model for others to follow…

    First, in both cases the authors spent a couple years building a readership for her writing through websites. That took a lot of patient work and investment by the authors, and it helped immensely (and I realize that’s not a publisher activity, but I bring it up because it wouldn’t be fair to talk about the success of the novels without that fact). Both authors worked tirelessly at marketing, which also helped. I’m one of those who realizes writers don’t get into this business to become “marketers” — they want to be writers, so investing a bunch of time into marketing is a sacrifice. Both of these authors made that sacrificed and did the hard work to make their books succeed.

    Second, each author wrote a very good novel. The publisher’s role in that was to push the writers to make their books better. The editors weren’t satisfied to let the novels be adequate — they pushed them toward greatness. So I think the publisher really believed in the books. That may sound trite, but I think it makes a difference. A publisher can’t believe in every book — no matter what they say, the lists are too long, and there’s only so much time to invest. They need to spend the bulk of their energies on their current bestsellers, since that’s close to being a guaranteed source of income. It’s tough to invest a lot of time, money, and manpower on a newer author who may or may not pan

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  • October 23, 2013

    What about a mega-giveaway? (a guest blog)


    BY GUEST BLOGGER RAJDEEP PAULUS, author of Swimming Through Clouds

    AMC_8382.JPGstc_giveaway_contest-fall is for falling in love.jpg

    Life is about give and take. My mom taught me this at a very early age. We learn this on the playground: “Give me a push on the swings. Now your turn.”

    But as we grow older, we get confused. We don’t always know what we want. And we’re wary of those who offer to give us something in return for anything. How much will they expect? Will the return be worth the effort? We can all think of a hundred better things to do with our time. Time is limited, after all.

    So as a newbie author navigating the torrential waves of marketing, I have decided that I’ve tried sailing, kayaking, and snorkeling with the likes of blogs tours, twitter parties, and spray-painting Swimming Through Clouds across NYC brick walls in the best view of passing subway riders. I suppose the latter is something I only dream about but some day…

     Anyway, the most success I’ve personally had at spreading book news has been with the A-MAZING dessert party put on by the fabulous Amanda Luedeke (of “Thursdays with Amanda” fame, although lately…) and her partners in crime, Chip and Sandra. You can read about all the fun here at Playlist Fiction or here on Chip’s Blog!

    Although I like to say life is one big par-tay, the truth is, most of us can’t afford to party Monday through Friday and on the weekends. That’s just not reality.

    So back in my little boat, swimming through ideas of how to get the word out about my book and all the fab titles over at Playlist Fiction, I ventured out and researched what other succeeding Indie YA authors were doing. Stumbled upon a new writer who is tearing up the charts with her New Adult book, and one major thing she’s doing differently that I hadn’t seen before

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  • October 8, 2013

    Amanda's "The Extroverted Writer"


    When Amanda Luedeke (an agent who works with me at MacGregor Literary) told me she was writing a book entitled The Extroverted Writer, I laughed. I mean… let’s face it — most writers are simply not extroverts. They tend to be thinkers, who often sit in front of their computers, or who stare out the window, pondering life and characters (and, at least in my case, who they’re going to murder next and how they’re going to get away with it). Sure, there are some writers who are actually extroverts, but in my experience they tend to be in the minority.

    But I saw where Amanda was going with her title… Even an introverted writer can use social media to get out there and meet people. He or she can start tweeting, or post thoughts on a blog, or get involved with friends via Facebook, or do many of the hundred other activities available on the web to build a readership. In other words, an introvert can become, in some ways, an extrovert, introducing herself to other people. And, the more I thought about it, the more I liked that concept.

    You see, I’m one of those people who sees the internet as being similar to a book. Books aren’t read by groups (at least not past first grade). They are read by individuals, so a book is really an author telling a story to one person at a time. Reading is an individual experience — as is most social media. It’s personal, with the author having a bunch of one-on-one conversations with individuals. And the more a writer does that, the more he or she has a chance to build a community of friends and readers.

    Think of the benefits of a strong social media community. There’s a chance for an author to define her voice. There is an opportunity to get close to people, and thereby have an

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  • September 23, 2013

    'Novel Crossing' One Year Later: A Marketing Perspective


    Today we’re featuring a guest blog from Amy Haddock, Senior Marketing Manager at Waterbrook Multnomah, a division of Penguin Random House. Amy helped create the popular “Novel Crossing” website for inspirational fiction readers…

    Writing a book is one thing. Getting that book discovered by readers is a whole other thing, right? It doesn’t take long to see that marketing a book can be an exhausting labor of love. As a marketer myself, I understand completely. For me, the goal is always to find readers, connect them with new books that they would like, and to get them to share it with their friends. As simple as that sounds, we all know that to get to this end result requires hours and hours of work, careful educated guesswork, detailed information about these consumers, a collaborative partnership between publishing house and author, and a way to target these readers as a group. That’s why I’m excited to tell you about Novel Crossing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

    The first thing I should probably tell you: I love books. I’m enamored with reading. I have whole bookcases full of titles from decades past that show just how long I’ve had my nose perpetually in a book, but more than that, I love Christian fiction. I grew up on Janette Oke, Gilbert Morris, and Robin Jones Gunn—reading that my Mom deemed “safe” from her own bookshelves—and during countless moves from city to city during my formative years, these books were my constant companions.

    I’ll admit, I struggled during my college years to retain my love for reading. I became a “skimmer” extraordinaire to make it through the stacks of articles and textbooks that professors gleefully assigned. Looking back, I realize they were just doing their job but at the time it was all I could do to stuff enough knowledge into my brain to pass my courses, let alone pick up a read-for-fun

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  • August 27, 2013

    What's the latest in the world of publishing?


    Keeping up on some of the latests news for authors…
    I loved this article on Harvard Business Review — “Should You Write a Book”
    And this is wonderful — DBW on “The Top Ten Book Recommendation Platforms”
    And, just to make sure you’re paying attention, have a look at the Supreme Court decision on US copyrights:,_._,___
    Some great words about fabulous writer Mark Bertrand and his books:
    An interesting take from last year on “What agents are facing” that is worth a read:–-who’d-have-’em/
    And in case you missed this bit of news from last year — about an agent who rejected someone:,0,7168502.story
    By the way, if you’re a fan of noir fiction, the second issue of Grift is now live. You can find it here:
    And some important bits of business for MacGregor Literary:
    –First, we had an author graduate with her PhD: Congrats Sandi Glahn!  Check this out:
    –Second, novelist Mindy Clark won the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award  a couple months ago – read about it here:
    –Third, nonfiction writers Sheila Wray Gregoire of Belleville, Ont. won the $5000 Grace Irwin Prize for the top religious book in Canada with her The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, published by Zondervan.
    –Fourth, we’ve had a number of books on the various bestseller lists, including Rachel Hauck’s The Wedding Dress hit #1 on Kindle.
    –Fifth, Amanda Luedeke’s great book about marketing on social media, The Extroverted Writer, continues to sell and get wonderful things said about it. If you haven’t seen it on Amazon yet, have a look.
    –And last, two books that Marie Prys and I wrote, The Prayers of the Presidents and The Faith of the First Ladies are available and selling. You can find them at
    I doubtless missed a bunch of things — so use the comments section to add in the news I
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  • August 19, 2013

    What is a "best-selling" author?


    Recently I got behind on a bunch of questions readers sent in, so I’m going to try and catch up by offering shorter answers to a host of questions…

    Someone wrote to say, “I’ve seen a number of writers call themselves ‘best-selling’ authors. Quite a few are self-published. What exactly does it take for a book to be considered a bestseller?”

    That’s easy — if an author has hit a bestseller list, they can legitimately call themselves a bestselling author. So if your book hit the New York Times list, the LA Times list, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Denver Post, CBA, ECPA, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any other bestseller lists, you can promote yourself as a “bestselling” author. The problem that’s come up recently is that authors will rise up the Amazon sales ranking, notice they’re in the top five or ten in their sub-category, and suddenly start telling everyone they’ve become a superstar. Um… Let’s just say that rising up the Amazon rankings are great, but they segment things so much it’s considerably easier to make their list than, say, the New York Times Bestseller list. And editors and agents aren’t stupid (no matter what you’ve heard). If your book spent an hour in the top ten of Amazon’s “inspirational historical fiction” category, that won’t really impress editors. Stick to the major lists, and you’ll figure out who is a legitimate bestseller.

    Another writer wants to know, “How many words are in a standard romance novel? A thriller? A literary novel? What about a novella?”

    At Harlequin, a contemporary category romance is 55,000 words, and a historical romance is 75,000 words. At other houses (those that aren’t selling to a subscriber list) those numbers are larger. Most contemporary stand-alone novels are in the 70 to 80,000 word range, and some publishing houses prefer they stretch to 90,000 words. Thrillers tend to go long — 90,000 words. Spec

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