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Category : Quick Tips
Or you can get agents to like you, as a person.
If an agent likes you, then they’re that much more likely to give you more of their time, more of their input. They’re more likely to sign you.
We’re bringing back some of Chip’s blog posts for both your reading pleasure and to bring some insight for authors in a constantly evolving industry. Enjoy! Feel free to comment below.
Marketing Your First Novel
I received a fascinating email from a first-time novelist the other day. She said that her very first novel is releasing, it’s with a medium-sized house, and she said, “While I’m not exactly sure what the publisher may do to market my book, I’m wondering what advice you give to the authors you represent in order to help them market their first novel.”
First, I wrote back to her and said she should simply ASK HER PUBLISHER what exactly they’re doing to help market her book. It may not be much (publishing works on the Pareto Principle, where 80% of the resources flow to 20% of the books), but she should certainly know what they are doing. So get a little clarity by asking. Are they taking out an ad in a trade magazine? Purchasing a group ad? Buying placement in front of Barnes & Noble? Sending out review copies? Offering terms to Amazon? Whatever it is (and it may not be much), it would be nice to know, so that the author doesn’t duplicate the publisher’s efforts.
Second, I suggested she simply make a list of the things SHE CAN DO to help market her book. Can she put together a blog tour? Do a launch party with friends at a local bookstore? Set up an event on Facebook? Arrange to get into her local newspaper and onto local radio stations? Every author can do SOMETHING… so what is it you can do?
We had a nice chat about this via email, then she asked me another question: “Would you be willing to show me the sort of letter you send to a first-time novelist you represent?” I thought that was a brilliant question,
If you or someone you love suffers from writer’s block, then this is the podcast episode for you!
Writer’s block can take on many forms. It can be a lack of motivation, a sudden disinterest in your book, an issue with plot or character or scene, and more.
When faced with writer’s block, many writers simply give up. The task of working through it seems so difficult, that it’s easier to begin a new writing project or take a year off. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
I’ve worked with many authors who have said that the whole “publishing thing” didn’t feel real until they received their cover art. Maybe it was finally being able to visualize the book as it would be in stores. Maybe it was seeing their name in specialized fonts. Whatever it was, receiving covert art is a turning point for many authors. It’s when the process goes from dream to reality.
While the cover art process is an important one, few authors know what to expect, how to navigate it, and, if they’re self-publishing, how much they should expect to pay. In this week’s episode of The Gatecrashers Podcast, we discuss all that and more. Listen in on our conversation on book cover art.
For quite awhile on this blog I had a weekly column entitled Thursdays with Amanda. I’d talk primarily about marketing, since that was my background, and try to help authors navigate what can oftentimes seem like a mystery. It led to a book and countless conversations with authors who wanted to better understand how to be smart about book marketing.
Then, some years ago we decided to take a break from blogging. It was taking up a lot of time and Chip and I were both busy pursuing career growth.
But last fall, I got the itch to once again share what I know with authors.
And so The Gatecrashers Podcast was born.
This isn’t your typical podcast of author interviews or happy talk. This is an industry-focused weekly show in which we “storm the gates of publishing and dare to talk about the realities of the industry.”
Some of the topics we’ve covered include:
- How do publishers determine marketing budgets?
- What agents aren’t telling you …
- The biggest mistakes you’re likely to make …
- How will COVID-19 affect book publishing?
- And more.
My cohost, Charis Crowe, brings insight from the self-publishing world while I offer ten years of experience in the industry as a book agent and now V-P of MacGregor & Luedeke.
I hope you’ll give us a listen. And if you’re on Facebook, find me at Facebook.com/AgentAmandaLuedeke. There, I post my deals, share info, and interact with my followers.
Guest writer Holly Lorincz is a professional editor and owner of Lorincz Literary Services. New York Times Bestselling author Vincent Zandri says of her, “A great editor not only points out the gaffs in a manuscript, but also helps you, as a writer, realize the enormous possibilities that exist within the text. That is Holly Lorincz.”
Are you getting ready to send a query?
Attending a conference?
Has a literary agent or acquisition editor asked to see your book?
Here’s a list of tips on how to whip your manuscript into the right shape.
Agents and acquisition editors often have specific format settings they require on manuscript submissions. Sometimes these paradigms are listed, but, more often, the editors expect you to have ESP, assuming you will magically know what they want (just like you should already know what is expected in query letters and proposals). There are a ton of websites and books devoted to formatting advice, including how to make those changes, so I’m just going to give you a quick and dirty list of things I know, from experience, will be helpful. Please note, these are not the same settings you use when formatting an ebook—just one more example of the war between publishing houses and Amazon.
IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS WORD, AND IT HAD SETTINGS. AND IT WAS GOOD.
And, boy, have these settings evolved. This is not the double-spaced, stretched justification from your (technological) youth. Of course, it’s best to set up your document before you begin . . . but who really does that? You usually hammer out least forty-five pages before you realize you forgot to set chapter headings or change the font from Cambria. So, let’s say you’re a good chunk of the way into your masterpiece, or you’re done. Just “select-all” and make the following changes to your Microsoft Word doc., which you will be sending as an email attachment.
Someone wrote to ask, “With all the changes in publishing these days, what do I really need to know about agents?” Let me offer a dozen thoughts…
1. Do your homework before selecting an agent. DON’T sign up with somebody just because they say they’re an agent and they want to represent you. I know that’s a temptation, but this is a professional relationship. Would you go to a guy’s office for your health problems just because he claims to be a doctor? Ask around. Check him out. This is the biggest mistake people make with agents, in my view. This past year at ACFW you could toss a rock in the air and when it came down it would most likely hit somebody claiming to be an “agent.” Um… these guys are going to be taking your ideas and helping you sign legal agreements regarding them. Don’t take that lightly.
2. Be wary of any agent who charges a fee or advertises what the charge is to work with them. That’s a total violation of the guidelines for the Association of Author Representatives (and, in fact, those agents wouldn’t be allowed as members of AAR). There are a couple fairly successful agents in CBA who do that. It’s unethical, and authors should stay away, if they want to keep from being scammed. On the other hand, I was VERY glad to have someone write and tell me that “Steve Laube is my agent and he’s good.” Don’t we all get tired of people sort of beating around the bush, telling us one person is bad and another is good, but never mentioning names? The fact is, Steve IS good. So is Bryan Norman at Alive, as well as Janet Grant and Wendy Lawton and Rachelle Gardner and Natasha Kern and Greg Daniel and Karen Solem and Greg Johnson and Andrea Heinecke and Robert Wolgemuth and Sandra Bishop and Amanda
A friend wrote to say, “I’ve been told we should have a launch party when my book comes out. Is that a good idea? And what what makes a good launch party?”
I think a book launch party is a great idea — it allows an author to involve friends and acquaintances in the release of the book, is an easy way to garner some local media, and can help you kick off book sales. (Besides, it can be great for an author’s ego, if done right.) Let me offer a couple of suggestions to help make it a success…First and most important, you want to make sure you INVITE people. In other words, don’t sit around and hope people show — be proactive and make sure you get a house full. That means you need to find a big group who can be supportive, like your local writer’s group, you church congregation, the organizations you belong to, all your relatives, people at the clubs or sports you’ve joined, and all your fans in the region. Pick a venue you can fill up, since getting 40 people in a tiny bookstore makes it feel like a great party, but getting those same 40 people in a huge shopping mall gallery can feel empty. Determine a definite start and end time, and make sure everyone sees it’s a celebration. Again, you’re trying to get the word out, and get commitments from some folks to attend.Second, if you really want to make people show up, offer an incentive — books at a discount, or free chocolate, or wine and cheese (a few big boxes of wine don’t cost much and seem to bring people out of the woodwork). If you can’t do wine, ask a couple people to bring their latte machines and offer free lattes to everyone. Your only expense is the price of coffee. But have something that
When I decided to become a writer, I did it mostly because I liked silence. I liked the idea of sitting with my own thoughts and sculpting words in my preferred order.
But then I got published. And I realized that silence and control over my books wasn’t mine anymore. I was now expected to market them? I was expected to talk to others about my books and try to persuade them to exchange their hard earned cash for them? This was not what I signed up for. I didn’t think I could market. I didn’t think I’d be good at it.
Unfortunately, in this extremely competitive market, I don’t have a choice. I must engage with future readers, pitch my stories and talk about myself in a way that would make others want to read my books.
In the short time that I’ve been a published author, I’ve discovered four no-fail ways to easily transition me from sullen, reclusive, cat-hair covered wordsmith who likes silence to cheerful, enthusiastic, non-pushy salesperson who likes taking other people’s money. The best thing about these ways? They’re cheap! They’re not too hard! And I’ve almost come to the point that I can do them effortlessly! You can do them too!
- Have business cards. I designed my own cards and bought them through Moo.com. (Moo is the coolest place to get cards, IMHO!) So for $20 I have 200 cards that have a lot more than my contact information. My cards have said, “Author, Homeschooling Mother, Queen.” My cards are a manifestation of what I want to be, which gives me confidence. When I pass out a card, (that I always have on hand) people are impressed that I am prepared, that I am professional, and that I am willing to share who I am.
- Carry your books with you always. I put my most recent books in a ziplock bag, to
This week, I’m continuing my series on how to best channel your craft in your conference materials by talking about your novel’s synopsis. A synopsis is an important part of any proposal– sometimes an agent or editor will read it at the conference when taking a look at your proposal, other times they won’t see it until you send them the requested sample chapters or full manuscript, but whenever they get around to looking at it, they’ll be expecting certain things from the synopsis, and if yours doesn’t deliver, you risk frustrating or confusing that important reader. Remember, agents and editors are looking for reasons to say “no” to a project– not in a jerky, we-can’t-wait-to-stomp-on-your-dreams kind of way (well, not most of us…), but in a realistic, we-hear-pitches-all-the-time-and-have-trained-ourselves-to-listen-for-certain-dealbreakers-so-as-not-to-waste-our-or-an-author’s-time-by-pursuing-a-project-that-doesn’t-fit-our-guidelines/preferences/areas-of-interest kind of way. A synopsis that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to creates a potential place for us to say “no,” so make sure you understand the function of a synopsis in a proposal and how to make sure it provides what an agent or editor is looking for in a synopsis.
What is the purpose of a synopsis? When an agent or editor looks at a synopsis, they’re looking to get a feel for the WHOLE book, beginning to end. If they’re reading the synopsis, you’ve most likely already “hooked” them with a dynamite paragraph or pitch giving the main idea of the story– “some particular big thing or big problem happens to a main character or two in a particular setting and hijinks ensue as colorful secondary character’s arc or additional subplot unfolds in tandem with the main character’s journey to learning something.” This hook paragraph has given them the basic premise, a hint of your voice, and a feel for the most unique elements of the book, but now they want to find out more. Sometimes, they’ll read the synopsis first; sometimes, they’ll want to look at the