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Category : The Business of Writing
By CHIP MACGREGOR
Someone wrote to say, “I know you’re going to the big RWA conference this month. Of the appointments you have at a conference like that, how many actually result in your asking for more material? How many result in you giving serious consideration to an author? How many will you actually sign to represent? Just curious.”
Of the appointments I have at a normal writing conference, I’d say I might have 15 to 30 appointments — some formal, some informal.
Of those, maybe 5 or 6 result in my asking to see more.
Of those, I may get serious about 1 or 2.
Of those, I may or may not sign one to an agency agreement.
For years, most of us have agreed that we’re looking for ONE GOOD PROJECT at each conference. That will mean the conference basically pays for itself. Sometimes I don’t get any. Sometimes I get one or two. And I should note that RWA is one of the very best conferences in the country – a great place to learn about writing and the industry (not just for romance writers, but for anyone looking to make a living with books in this country). It’s coming up in Atlanta later in July, and it’s worth every penny to attend.
On a related matter, I had someone ask, “What is the most important piece of advice you can give to a writer heading to an agent or editor appointment at a writing conference?”
The most important piece of advice is simple: Have your proposal and sample writings so well honed that an agent or editor has no reason to say “no.” That’s easier said than done, of course, but that should be the goal. A great idea, expressed through great writing, in a great proposal, preferably by an author with a great platform. All of those things take time and talent, of course, but
Guest blogger Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author of critically acclaimed novels such as RITA nominated The Wedding Dress and RITA nominated Love Starts with Elle, part of the Lowcountry series, the Nashvegas series and the Songbird Novels penned with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Their novel Softly and Tenderly, was one of Booklists 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals. Her current release, Once Upon A Prince, hit #5 in Kindle Amazon.
To Write A Series or Not To Write A Series by Rachel Hauck
Thanks to Chip for the opportunity to blog this week! I’ve known Chip for a number of years of which the last four he’s been my agent.
It’s been an honor and privilege to work with him. Our working relationship started when God shouted “Chip MacGregor” to me in a dream. True story.
It’s also how I found out he played the glockenspiel in the 8th grade band.
Chip likes to joke on his blog and unabashedly share his opinions, but he also cares about people and writers, and is more kind hearted than he’ll let show.
Thanks Chip for being on the other end of the phone when I need it!
So, now to the real purpose of the blog. How do series play into publication for published authors as well as unpublished? Should unpublished authors be concerned with writing a series?
I live in a really cool little community, a sort of oasis in the middle of busyness, and it’s easy to get to know our neighbors.
A new family recently moved in and the wife/mom wants to be a novelist. The other day we stood in front of her house talking books and she mentioned how she had a whole series planned.
Her comment landed on a pile of “I’m writing a series” statements I’ve heard from beginning writers over the years. Seems everyone wants to write a series.
Someone wrote to say, “I’ve been asked to speak several times since my book came out — some large venues, some very small. My problem is that I don’t know what to charge when I speak? A flat fee? A sliding scale? Is there some guidance you can give me?”
Happy to begin this conversation. Okay… start to think about creating a matrix for your speaking events.
First, there are certain topics you speak about. (We’ll name those A, B, C, D.)
Second, there are lengths of time you can do each one — for example, let’s say you can talk about Topic A for 30 minutes, for 2 hours, or for an entire weekend retreat, but you can only talk about Topic B in a couple one-hour blocks of time, so you could do a one-hour or two-hour chunk of content; and Topic C is nothing more than a 20 to 40 minute casual talk.
So now you have some options… You’ve got A1 (30 minutes of Topic A), A2 (2 hours on Topic A), A3 (a whole day on Topic A), B1, B2, and C1, etc. Still with me? That starts to give you important ways to figure out the topic and time.
Third, you need to consider how many times you speak. If they want you to just show up and give a speech, that’s X. If they want you to teach several workshops, that’s Y. If they want you for a weekend retreat, that’s Z. (This will start to get confusing, but it means you’d be doing a Y Day — several workshops, where you’ll do A2, B2, and C1, for example. If you hate my numbering, create your own that makes more sense.)
Fourth, you need to consider the venue. The bigger the venue, the more you charge. Most speakers have one to three tiers (small setting, medium sized setting, large or arena setting).
While our hardworking agents are attending BEA in New York this week, several authors are filling in with guest posts. Enjoy!
Rajdeep Paulus decided to be a writer during her junior year in high school after her English teacher gave her an “F” but told her she had potential. She studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and began writing on the island of Dominica, while her husband of two months biked down to campus to begin his first day of medical school. Fifteen years, four daughters, and a little house on a hill in the quaint town of Locust Valley later, she now writes YAFiction and blogs weekly In Search of Waterfalls.
I’m not the first newbie author to wade through the waters of marketing her first book with a bit of trepidation. Truth be told, when I learned that a writer’s job was not simply to write a great story, sit back and wait for readers to come in flocks to scoop up copies galore, I welcomed the challenge that lay before me. Simply because I’m a tad atypical to the hermit-writer stereotype: I love people and rubbing elbows with the world outside my writing cave.
So when I read a title like “The Extroverted Writer” by Amanda Luedeke, I think, oh, she’s talking about me! When, in fact, she’s composed a book chalk full of practical advice for all types of writers who find the whole marketing thing as messy as a knot on a bad hair-day morning. Something I am all too familiar with since I have four princesses. Hair balls up the ying-yang, but where was I?
Yes. The art of marketing your first book. How do you do it? Successfully? And how do you know how to proportion your time, giving yourself time to write, edit, market and still take time to breathe.
So I began my marketing momentum by brainstorming. A bunch of ideas
Stephanie Morrill writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.
When my debut novel hit shelves in 2009, words like marketing, platform, and tribe put me in a bad mood. I was convinced that I didn’t possess the skillset I needed for being a good marketer, and that my best bet was to just write good books and hope for the best.
But then I fell in love with blogging. During the last three years, I’ve invested a portion of my writing time into a blog for teen writers called Go Teen Writers. At first it felt like I was on a stage and talking to an audience. As months passed, the audience slowly-but-surely grew. But instead of just looking at me, listening to me, talking to me…they turned toward each other. They looked, listened, and talked.
No longer was Go Teen Writers just me typing and scheduling posts, a drain on precious writing time. Once the teens began connecting to each other, the blog became a place of conversation, community, and friendship.
And a marketing tool beyond my imagination.
Here’s an example of what can happen when your audience starts chatting with each other instead of just talking to you:
In March, my publisher was generous enough to offer my debut novel, Me, Just Different, as a free ebook for six weeks. And, of course, the campaign launched during the one trip I had planned all spring.
I told myself that I had six weeks to promote the book and didn’t need to panic, but I was excited and decided to at least mention the
Someone wrote to say, “I’ve been thinking of changing agents. I’m not convinced my current agent is a good match for me. What wisdom would you have for me?”
I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve occasionally had authors approach me to talk about the possibility of dropping their agent. It usually goes something like, “I’m just not happy with my current agent, and I’m thinking of switching…”
For a long time I struggled with how best to respond to those words. I have a policy against actively poaching other authors, but I have a business to run, so it’s not like I can refuse to answer the phone when a good author calls me to talk about his or her situation. However, I’ve learned to always start the conversation with the same sentence: “Have you talked this through with your current agent?” I mean, it would seem like a reasonable expectation that an author who is unhappy would go to his or her agent, express the dissatisfaction, and try to seek some sort of resolution. If there’s a communication problem, or some unanswered question, it seems like two people who have invested in each other would talk it out. (In other words, we’d all act like adults.)
“Lack of communication” is the #1 problem between authors and agents. So having regular communication can alleviate a lot of the problem. But that doesn’t always happen, especially when there’s some disappointment in the job being done. People seem afraid of conflict, and would often prefer to flee the situation than to have a potentially difficult discussion. I can understand that reasoning, but I can’t really respect it. You see, the majority of people will claim they’re leaving an agent because there’s some sort of problem with the work being done. But my experience has taught me the real reason most authors leave an agent is because “the agent hasn’t
Someone sent me this question: “What role do agents have in today’s changing market? And I know you do a lot of work in the religious publishing scene — do agents work in that area as well?”
Yes, I do a lot of work in the Christian market. Not exclusively — I work in both the general market as well as the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association). So yes, there are agents who both areas, though not many. The role of agents is changing, just as the role of publisher is changing. Most publishers, including most religious publishers, simply do the bulk of their business through agents. That is to say, most books are represented by a literary agent. Publishing houses rely on agents to do the initial weeding, so that the proposals being considered by acquisitions editors have already been vetted in some way. That’s a change that has come over the past ten or fifteen years — the dross has already been skimmed away. Publishers also expect agents to know contracts, to help make sure the author makes his or her deadline, and to keep the author on track with all the pieces that come with creating a book.
Authors should expect agents to know the bookselling market and have the relationships in place to get a proposal seen by the right people at publishing houses – something many beginning writers lack. Every author expects his or her agent to understand (and explain) publishing contracts, so the agent can protect you from making a bad decision – an important but often overlooked point, since the document you sign is a legal agreement that will govern the terms of your writing as long as it’s in print. And a good agent will know current publishing economics, so that he or she can negotiate a contract on your behalf that is in line with current market standards. The book world is
A guest post from Holly Lorincz, assistant to Chip MacGregor
Recently, I was forced given the opportunity to learn to master the art of uploading ebooks onto Smashwords and Amazon for this persistent Scottish agent I know. After extracting multiple promises that haggis or blood pudding would never be served at staff parties, I agreed.
I can’t approach the simplest assignment without first reading at least seventeen reference books (the heftier the better), and yet, after all that research and putting my own book up for esale, I’ve really only learned one thing about self-publishing: marketing your ebook is a full time job. Selling it successfully? There’s magic involved and a lot of patient plodding, and messing around with algorithms. I know, I know, I shouldn’t use that word algorithm, since it just screams ‘first period math class.’ Sorry. Unless you’re going to hire a publicist, get used to it. Also, if I’m being totally honest, you may want to bypass the whole formatting and uploading issue, hire a professional, if you have a life away from your computer.
Still here? Okay then. The following is a list of random ebook publishing and marketing tips that I’ve picked up from books, other self-publishers, and my own stumble down the publishing path. Some of it will be common sense and common practice, so just view it as a reminder.
1. Remember those early beta-readers you sought out as you were finishing your book? Remember that one that drove you crazy, the one that only commented on dangling participles, improperly used pronouns and linguistic improbabilities? If you haven’t burned that bridge, find that grammarian and ask him or her to read your book one last time, tasked with catching typos, specifically homonyms and homophones. (Because, you know, spell check silently chuckles when you use the phrase “his voice was a horse whisper.”)
2. Decide if you are going to use KDP Select
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,
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 andBarnes & Noble.
Last night was our GET PUBLISHED teleseminar with Michael Hyatt. What a great time, talking business and answering questions! It was a blast.
We weren’t able to get to some of the submitted questions, so I’ve gone ahead and answered them below. Would love your thoughts on what was discussed during the teleseminar, or what is talked about below.
And don’t forget! We have a special opportunity for friends (that’s you!) of MacGregor Literary.
Michael Hyatt, former CEO and Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers (one of the largest publishers in the world), has recently released a comprehensive solution for authors called GET PUBLISHED. It’s a 21 session audio program, accessible online, that distills Michael’s 30+ years of publishing knowledge into a step-by-step guide to help authors get published and launch a successful career, even perhaps a bestseller!
Michael is offering a special limited time discount on GET PUBLISHED. Not only can you save significantly on the program, you’ll also get access to several bonuses worth over $150. Bonuses include items such as Michael’s popular “How to Write a Winning Book Proposal” ebook and more.
For details and to take advantage of this special offer, go to http://michaelhyatt.com/getpublishedoffer
(Note: This discount offer is only available through April 17).
Okay, on to those questions!
Brooke asks: What makes an agent take a chance on a first-time author?
When we fall in love with a fiction author’s story idea and writing, or when we see the potential of the book idea, writing, AND platform of a nonfiction author.
Mark asks: What do you think about