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Category : Favorite Books
How can I find a literary agent? (and 101 other questions asked by writers)
Hey, my new book is releasing!
Over the past several months, I’ve been answering your questions about how to find a literary agent, how to make a living with writing, how to maximize the marketing of your book, and dozens of other questions writers ask.
The landscape in the publishing industry has shifted and blurred in the past decade. Writers, from novice to veterans, are struggling to re-define their job, their goals, and their role in the process. I’ve been more or less known for staying in front of the changing industry paradigms, offering support to writers and agents while hosting this industry blog and speaking on the writing conference circuit.
So listen… if you were the writer lucky enough to sit down with an experienced agent over coffee, what would you ask?
That’s what this book is all about. Inside, you will find answers to a collection of the top one hundred and one questions literary agents are asked every year—and some that should be asked. So if you’re an unpublished writer seeking to take the next step, or a seasoned writer bewildered by today’s evolving world of publishing, check out the new book Holly Lorincz and I created for The Benchmark Press. You can get it in hard copy or as an ebook by going here.
And some nice words from writers:
New York Time and USA Today bestselling author Vince Zandri said, “I can’t think of a better authority on agenting than one of the country’s best agents. Chip MacGregor not only pulled my career from out of the ashes, he guided it on a path to New York Times, Amazon, and USA Today bestselling-status. His management savvy and articulate knowledge of the ever changing publishing marketplace has enabled me to make a very good living writing fiction.”
And Dwight Baker, the president of Baker Books, had this to say: “Chip Mac Gregor is the first
What's the best book you read in 2013?
As we wrap up 2013, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the top publishing stories of the year, make some predictions for the upcoming year, and get back to answering your questions. But first, I’d like your input on one question:
What was the single best book you read in 2013?
It could be fiction or nonfiction. It could be a new book that released this year, or some great book from prior years that you just discovered. But I’d like to know what your best read was in 2013.
My list of the top ten books read this year:
Heartbreaker, by Susan Howatch — A fascinating look at the good and evil that resides in us, told through the story of a young woman raising money for a healing center who meets a male prostitute looking for meaning in life. Perhaps the best book I read all year.
Lost Girls, by Robert Kolker — A gritty, clear-eyed look at four victims of a still-at-large serial killer on Long Island. Great research and writing.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer — The moving story of a nine-year-old boy who lost his father on 9/11, and who is determined to find out why and how. I was in awe of the writing.
The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach — A wonderful novel about friendships, determination, acceptance, love, success, and baseball. (I’m a sucker for a great baseball story, and the story of Henry Skrimshander is one of the best novels I’ve read in years.)
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson — I love a book that makes me laugh out loud, not just smile and nod. This book by a longtime blogger will make you snort coffee through your nose. Hilarious.
Drift, by Rachel Maddow — You won’t agree with all her conclusions, but this story of how US Presidential
Thursdays with Amanda: My Favorite Authors and Books
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.
(I’m taking a break from all-things-marketing for the rest of 2013…so if you’re here for posts on platforms and promotions, stay tuned…they’ll come with the new year).
They say (okay, maybe ‘they’ don’t say it, but I’ve heard it on occasion) that the best way to get to know what an agent or editor likes is to find out what they read. What books they cherish. What authors they drool over. The thought is that if you can find an agent or editor who loves books and authors that are similar to what you write, you’re that much closer to getting picked up.
I don’t know how much truth there is in this. Fact is, most industry professionals tend to enjoy literary fiction…and yet as an agent I’m lucky if I get to sell one lit fiction book a year. I think I had somewhere around twenty books come out last year that I had agented. None of them were literary fiction. In fact in my three-year career, I’ve sold one literary fiction title. One.
BUT still. The idea stands. I love literary fiction. I love great speculative fiction. I love gothic fiction. Show me a book that fits these categories and I’m that much more likely to consider it.
So with that being said, I thought I’d take today and go over my favorite authors and books of all time. These are the best of the best, in my humble opinion. And if what you write matches them…well, then. I’d suggest you introduce yourself the next
Where does depth in fiction come from?
Someone wrote to ask, “Put simply, where does depth in fiction come from?”
Depth is found when multidimensional characters who I can relate to, who I care about, face the timeless questions of life in the midst of complex circumstances, then make decisions that are open to interpretation. Their choices may not be right, but as a reader, I get to go through the experience with the characters. I see people in your story I have come to care about facing big decisions, making choices that I may or may not agree with, and I get to go through that season with them, and see the results of their choices, then measure them against my own life. THAT’S what causes me to learn, helps me to understand myself, and leaves me thinking about your book. And this can’t be faked – any bright reader will figure out when you’re faking depth or artificially trying to gin up emotion. So you can’t write with an agenda. Nothing is more boring than to read a polemic masquerading as a novel.
One novelist sent me this: “Writers of historical fiction seem to be interested in knowing what time period editors might be looking for. Is there a ‘hot’ time period you would like to see a book set in or any to avoid?”
Well, it’s changing all the time. Publishing is a tidal business– the tide comes in, the tide goes out. So Amish fiction doesn’t exist, then we’re awash in All Things Amish, then there are considerably fewer of those titles. And there’s nothing wrong with that — the culture embraces some topics or periods for a season. Some have more staying power than others (so “westerns” became their own genre, “Amish fiction” has become it’s own sub-genre in Christian fiction, and Chick Lit disappeared as a relative flash in the pan).Watching the trends can be fun, just to see what publishers
Thursdays with Amanda: Available Now! My Book on Building an Author Platform
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.
Alright, all of you Thursdays with Amanda fans out there! I’ve got something for you…
Each week I try to tackle the big, bad topic of how to build an author platform. We’ve looked at Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, blogs, websites, and more, and the backlist of posts has become quite daunting and difficult to search.
SO to put an end to the madness and help all of you navigate the tips, rules, and tricks we’ve discussed on our Thursdays get-togethers, I’ve released an ebook.
THE EXTROVERTED WRITER: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform is a compilation of my Thursdays with Amanda posts PLUS a bunch of great new content (new content includes LinkedIn, strategies for building a Twitter following, how to identify your audience, and more). All in a shiny digital package! Categorized, organized, and hopefully quite navigable, this little ebook is perfect for those who have come to love my weekly blog posts.
Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on knowing your audience:
How to Find Your Audience
All right, enough theory. Let’s get practical. How do you take a book that is loved by everyone and your mother and find its basic readership—those who are most inclined to shell out fifteen dollars to buy it (or those who are most inclined to get their parents to shell out fifteen dollars)?
First, you must identify other movies or books or plays that are similar to your work. So, go to the bookstore or get online and put on your researcher jeans.
The first similarity should be genre. Match mysteries with mysteries, cozy mysteries with cozy mysteries, police procedurals with police procedurals, and so
What are the best books of all time?
Someone wrote to say, “A couple years ago you talked about the important of reading great books, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you offer a reading list to authors. What books would you recommend?”
Hmmm…. Okay, I think I did this once before, but here you go. I did some work on this, and I now present The MacGregor Recommended Reading List for Writers…
Ancients (old books writers ought to at least have read once): Homer’s ILIAD and ODYSSEY; Sophocles’ OEDIPUS REX; Euripides’ THE TROJAN WOMEN and ELECTRA; Herodotus’ THE HISTORIES; Thucydides’ HISTORY OF THE PELOPPENESIAN WAR; Sun Tsu’s THE ART OF WAR; Aristophanes’ LYSISTRATA; Plato’s SELECTED WORKS; Virgil’s THE AENEID
Classics (the classic books that every writer should probably be familiar with): Augustine’s CONFESSIONS; Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY; Chaucer’s CANTERBURY TALES; Shahrazad’s THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS; Machiavelli’s THE PRINCE; Miguel de Servants’ DON QUIXOTE; Shakespeare’s COMPLETE WORKS; John Donne’s SELECTED WORKS; Galileo’s DIALOGUE CONCERNING THE TWO CHIEF WORLD SYSTEMS; Hobbe’s LEVIATHAN; Descarte’s DISCOURSE ON METHOD; Milton’s PARADISE LOST; Moliere’s PLAYS; Blaise Pascal’s PENSEES; Bunyan’s PILGRIM’S PROGRESS; John Locke’s SECOND TREATISE ON GOVERNMENT; Daniel Defoe’s ROBINSON CRUSOE; Jonathan Swift’s GULLIVER’S TRAVELS; Voltaire’s CANDIDE; Henry Fielding’s TOM JONES; Laurence Sterne’s TRISTRAM SHANDY; James Boswell’s LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON; Thomas Jefferson’s BASIC DOCUMENTS IN AMERICAN HISTORY; Hamilton, Madison, and Jay’s THE FEDERALIST PAPERS.
Moderns (a change here — we get into the modern version of the novel): Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE; Stendahl’s THE RED AND THE BLACK; Hawthorne’s THE SCARLET LETTER; Thackeray’s VANITY FAIR; Dicken’s THE PICKWICK PAPERS, DAVID COPPERFIELD, HARD TIMES, THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP; Charlotte Bronte’s JANE EYRE; Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS; Anthony Trollope’s THE WAY WE LIVE NOW and THE WARDEN; Herman Melville’s MODY DICK; George Elliott’s THE MILL ON THE FLOSS; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s FAUST; Gustave Flaubert’s MADAME BOVARY; Selected poems of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
What do I need to know about writing my memoir?
Someone wrote to ask, “So what do we need to keep in mind when creating memoir?”
Fist, keep in mind there’s a difference between “memoir” and “autobiography.” An autobiography is a straight retelling of one’s life — what happened, what were the events/decisions, what did those result in. A memoir is a more personal narrative of the significant change points in one’s life. It doesn’t have to be linear, whereas an autobiography is almost always linear. And the focus of a memoir can be more on the effects in your personal life — what you were feeling, what you learned, how you changed. The end result is almost always on a catharsis of some kind. So while the goal of autobiography is to get the facts straight, the goal of memoir is something more akin to “revealing myself and my story, in order to reveal principles that will help others live more effectively.” (This isn’t a dictionary definition, it’s a MacGregor Definition.)
Second, people understand the world best through story, so that’s how you have to think. What are the stories that reveal your life and your character? What stories happened to you that changed you? You see, if you’re not a celebrity, nobody really cares about your everyday life (and, to tell you the truth, I’ve never cared to read celebrity biographies very much because…well, I don’t care about THEIR everyday life either). If someone wanted to understand my life, to see who I am and why, they wouldn’t care about a cold retelling of the facts. They’d rather hear some of my story — my dad’s conversation with me one morning just before he committed suicide, the person who told me I could write, my success as a writer, my failure as a publisher, my mom’s ugly death, the miracle that occurred in my car, the fact that people have stayed with me when I was a jerk,
Another post about favorite books
Marie Prys provides administrative support to MacGregor Literary’s agents as well as overseeing contracts and informational databases. She hails from the Northwest, lives in Richmond, VA, and enjoys a blessed life with her husband and four children. Reading is a favorite pastime she is always trying to find more time for.
When it comes to favorite books, I would be remiss if I didn’t cover Children’s fiction. As a child I was sometimes punished with having whatever book I was reading be taken away until a misdeed had been rectified—such as completing neglected chores. (This was, by the way, very effective, as I was always reading.) As an adult I am again re-reading old favorites with my children, or sometimes just living vicariously through them as they find my old favorites, and together we’ve even discovered new reading gems. Reading in this way creates communion, interaction, and special memories, but it also teaches.
When my daughter got hooked on the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, it was an addiction for me to ask her where she was in the series and what was going on. I relished her enjoyment of the descriptions of sisterhood (Laura is going to be Mary’s eyes now), her disdain for Nellie Olson (She deserved the leeches!), and her anticipation of what would happen when Almanzo Wilder came on the scene. And as she was reading, she learned geography, American pioneer-era history, and about the intricacies of family relationships.
The scene was no different when my son discovered J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. We discussed the pros and cons of mail by owl (how do the owls know where to go?), and Harry’s incredible successes in Quidditch (It would be the coolest game if it were real), and I taught him how to play chess after he read about Wizard Chess and realized we had that game. Going more deeply into his reading,