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Someone asked, “As an agent, what do you expect of your clients? What do you do for your clients?”
1. I expect the authors I represent to write well, be creative, work hard at the craft, meet their deadlines, get along with people, work extremely hard at the marketing side of publishing, be my friend, and be willing to work with me on the “career” side of writing. I figure most of my clients will stay with me for years, and we’ll watch their careers grow and change over time. Part of the “get along with people” aspect means they will be flexible and understand when life intrudes or things take longer than they expect — publishing is a slow business. Sometimes things happen that cause all of us to wait, or to be disappointed, or to shake our heads in wonder. But the expectations are fairly clear, I think. And they don’t always happen. Sometimes I disappoint people. Or they get tired of waiting. But, generally speaking, that’s the big picture.
2. There’s a misunderstanding that there is somehow a “right” relationship between an author and an agent. The fact is, every author is unique. Some need a lot of dialogue; some need little. Some want the agent to read their work; others couldn’t care less if the agent reads it. Some want to bat around ideas; others really don’t want to hear an agent’s respond to their ideas. Some want to go in-depth discussing contracts; others will say “don’t explain the contract to me, just show me where to sign.” So how the business happens will depend on the unique relationship between author and agent. There isn’t one “right” process I’ll have for working with an authors — which is why I’m not going to be the agent for everyone. (You can’t be friends with everyone — sometimes you meet someone, and the two of you just don’t
Someone sent in this: “You’ve been involved in just about every aspect when it comes to the publishing world. Do you enjoy being an agent the most at this point?”
I love agenting. Right now I can’t imagine ever leaving agenting to do anything else in publishing — and that answer comes out of a lot of publishing experience. I’ve made my living as a writer, editor, agent, and publisher. But there’s no question that my favorite role has been that of agent. Why?
First, because I love books and words, and have enjoyed making my living with them. As an agent, I get a chance to talk to a lot of authors about their book ideas and their writing. I have the opportunity to explore a lot of great ideas, to brainstorm stories, and to offer my completely bone-headed opinions on things I know nothing about.
Second, I have a heart for mentoring. It’s my nature to work with a small group of people and talk with them about how to move forward, so I enjoy the personal side of this job.
Third, I have a natural ability with strategic planning. When I was in my doctoral program at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), I did my graduate teaching fellowship as the assistant director of the Career Planning and Placement office. That helped me know how to bring to bear the principles of organizational development to an individual’s career choices. (The U of O is strong in the arts, but didn’t have much in terms of career assistance. My job, years ago, was to help develop some tools for those people.) I frequently hear agents talk about the importance of authors doing career planning, but it really seems like to many of them that means, “You need a book deal.” Of COURSE the author needs a book deal — that’s why they signed on with an agent. For
Someone asked, “Are writers conferences worthwhile for a beginning novelist? If so, how can I get the most out of a conference?”
I think a writing conference is one of the best investments a newer writer can make. (The best other ideas? A class that forces you to write, reading great writers, and participating in an active critique group.) A writers conference allows you to meet other writers and find out how they do things. It’s a great chance to network with authors, meet editors, get introduced to agents, and discover what’s going on in the industry. Consider a writing conference an introduction to publishing — something that’s hard to get anywhere else. Talking with several published authors might be one of the most effective ways of learning the process of moving from pre-published to published. You’ll find workshops on specialty topics that you would be hard-pressed to find a book on, as well as people who have walked the path ahead of you. Besides, a conference is usually a fun time, hanging out with other people who love words.
There are good conferences all over the country, and spread throughout the year. Some organizations sponsor conferences (Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers have two of the best writing conferences in the country), many universities have writing conferences (check your local colleges), and there are plenty of independent conferences at hotels, retreat centers, and on campuses. Simply googling “writing conferences” will get you enough information to get started. I think every new writer will benefit from a conference.
Some thoughts on getting the most out of a conference… Plan out a schedule before you get there. Make selections about the workshops and classes you want to attend, and if it turns out not to be great, feel free to change to another class. Set some basic goals for what you want to accomplish at the conference —
We’re taking a blogging break for the Holiday Season. Thank you for reading in 2012, and we’ll see you in 2013!
Kate wrote and asked, “How can I make my nonfiction memorable?”
I can think of a handful of tips…
1. Rely on “story.” How many times have you sat through a church service, listened to a good sermon, and left without remembering the pastor’s points, yet having his illustration stuck in your mind? The world revolves around story. It’s why you can turn on a TV anywhere, 24/7, and find stories. It’s how we come to understand ourselves and our world. So offer your reader a story, not just solid content. Give them a story that illustrates your points, and your writing will be much more memorable.
2. Pick up the pace. After you’ve written your chapter or article, go back through it and cut all unnecessary words. Ask someone you respect to look it over and suggest cuts. If you move the reader along quickly, you’re more apt to keep him or her reading. In particular, trim your adjectives and adverbs. Newer writers tend to think it will make them look mature or thoughtful if they lard up their text with adjectives (“The bright, yellow, cheery sun shone on the green, verdant, rolling hills as…we…Zzzzzz…..”). It doesn’t. It just takes the punch out of your writing.
3. Use short sentences. Yeah, you can call it the Curse of USA Today, but short sentences cause the reader to stay with you. They also force you to break complex ideas down into simpler thoughts, thereby making your work more easily memorable.
4. Create a strong lead. Think through your opening words. Make sure they draw your reader into your topic. You want your lead to arouse curiosity, hook them into your topic, and set your scene.
5. Work on your writing flow. Make sure your first sentence flows logically into your second sentence. Then make your second sentence flow into your third. Follow that by making sure your
Amanda Luedeke is a zombie literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform and eating brains. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her life as both an agent and a zombie.
A few weeks ago, I offered free social media critiques to those who replied before the 14th. You see, social media is a specialty of mine. Before becoming an agent, I worked for some years as a social media marketer at a marketing agency outside of Chicago. I worked with clients such as Vera Bradley, Peg Perego, Benjamin Moore and more. A somewhat longer description of what I did can be found in the first critique post.
1) Memoir of a Mermaid is a site by Adrianna Stepiano
- Very visually appealing. I’m wondering, though, about how it appears you have two banners/mastheads. I’d get rid of the stuff at the top and just add “A Young Adult Fiction Series by…” to the main one.
- It doesn’t seem your blog content is connecting with readers. This may be because it’s focused on your writing journey rather than reader interests. Brainstorm ways that you could provide content that interests readers but also keeps the focus on the YA genre, storytelling, myths, folklore, etc.
- I don’t see a picture of you anywhere or anything that ties this to a real person. If you want that strong connection with readers, you’re going to have to put yourself out there a bit more.
RECOMMENDATIONS: You do a lot of things right, but I think the main thing lacking is a clear goal. This doesn’t strike me as strictly a sales-oriented site, and yet at the same time, there’s not much of a reason for readers to come back once they’ve purchased the book. Answer these questions: Why did I build this site? What do I
Someone wrote to say, “A while back, you blogged about the lack of staying power authors have in today’s market. In your opinion, how do novelists like James Patterson, Karen Kingsbury, and Debbie Macomber stay on top?”
Publishing has always suffered from the “what’s new” syndrome. Every generation (which, in our culture, means every 3-to-7 years) needs it’s own voices — its own rock stars, its own TV shows, its own authors. So names will come and go. Take a look at who did big publishing deals 6 or 7 years ago, and you’ll find names you’ve never heard of. And yet… at the same time, the market has a tendency to fall in love with some people. James Patterson may not write the best books of all time, but he’s been around for 15 years, and he never has anything sell less than 100,000 copies. John Grisham has routinely been on the bestseller lists with his novels. Karen Kingsbury hits readers’ emotions with every book, and that drives her work to the bestseller lists.
I would argue that most successful authors share several characteristics: They know their own writing voice, and it’s a voice that appeals to a wide audience. (I’ve talked on this blog about “voice” quite a bit. I think it’s the #1 reason an author succeeds or fails.) They deliver a consistently good story that carries the reader along (even though successful authors may get hammered for poor craft, their stories are always interesting). There is almost always a protagonist I want to root for, and I’m generally drawn into the story emotionally. I usually get to know the inner life of the characters, not just the outer life. There is easy-to-understand conflict. And there’s generally some sort of transcendent theme to the book — reading it offers an emotional or educational experience, not just a way to spend a couple hours. When readers approach one
Today’s post is by guest JP Jones, author of Market Yourself: A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media and 31 Days of Marketing, which will release on October 20, 2012.
Marketing is one of the industry terms that often leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Seth Godin sums up our feelings about marketers in his book, “All Marketers Are Liars” (a great read by the way), but if you truly want to promote your work and yourself as a writer it’s important to come to terms with the dreaded marketing monster.
What you probably don’t realize is that there are marketing opportunities around you everyday. Marketing does NOT mean boasting, bragging and generally being obnoxious about your work or your successes. What it DOES mean however, is being ever ready to put your brand in front of others and seizing the opportunities for promotion that would otherwise be overlooked. Granted, that definition won’t be found in Webster’s, but it’s a good rule of thumb for you to keep in mind as you work to increase your marketing platform.
Let’s look at one of the top word-of-mouth marketing opportunities that we accidentally overlook.
Friends and Family
You might be thinking, Well of course I don’t overlook them. They know all about my writing endeavors. But think for a moment. Do they really? Have you provided your friends and family with the tools to really help you spread the word about your book or availability as a writer? To this date, word of mouth marketing still results in more sales than any other marketing venue. Why? Because we innately trust what a friend or colleague recommends to us over that of what we see on advertisements or other traditional channels of marketing. It’s the basic principle of six degrees of separation. As you pass along your book to your immediate circle, they pass it to their circle etc. Before long, you
I’ve had several people write to say, “I don’t know what to ask an agent when I meet one. What should I say?”
I’ve answered this question a few times on this blog, so let me replay some thoughts…
–How long have you been doing this?
-How many contracts have you negotiated for authors?
-Who do you represent?
-May I check your references? Are you okay with me asking your authors about you?
-What publishing houses have you worked with in the past year?
-Which editorial personnel have you done deals with?
-How many deal have you done in the past year?
-What sort of authors and projects do you represent?
-What do you like to read?
-Can you give me a book title you sold that you loved?
-Can you give me a book idea you sold that you loved?
–How would you define success for an author?
-What would you say are your best skills?
-What’s unique about your agency?
-What percentage do you earn on a book deal?
-Are there any hidden fees or charges? Any up-front costs?
-Do you charge back all your expenses?
-Have you ever worked in publishing or done any editing or writing?
-How do you approach career planning?
-Do you work by yourself?
-Are you full time?
-Can you help me do my e-books?
-Can you share any success stories with me?
-What do you do best?
-What do you expect from your authors?
That should at least get you started…
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.
You like my new picture?
If you don’t know, this week is ACFW — the big Christian writers conference. And since we work with both general market fiction and Christian fiction, we’re here in full force.
To commemorate, I asked my friend, Chris Kolmorgen (@ChrisKolmorgen) to whip up this take on the Christian historical romance book cover. You have me…ahem…I mean some sort of makeup-wearing girl in the foreground, a hunky man’s man lurking in the background, and some sense of setting (Downton Abbey anyone?).
So wish us luck! It’s going to be a fun week.
And now, on to your web critiques.
Quick background: A few weeks ago, I offered free social media critiques to those who replied before the 14th. You see, social media is a specialty of mine. Before becoming an agent, I worked for some years as a social media marketer at a marketing agency outside of Chicago. I worked with clients such as Vera Bradley, Peg Perego, Benjamin Moore and more. A somewhat longer description of what I did can be found in the first critique post.
1. Thrillers & Killers is a blog by Maegan Beaumont
- It’s very…red 🙂 You’re doing what most bloggers do…you use a pre-made template and you haven’t yet ventured into the territory of creating your own masthead. But I strongly encourage you to do so. Adding a photo or some sort of image to the top part of your blog will make it more inviting, appealing and professional-looking.
- You really should blog consistently. Even if it’s once per week. Just pick a day and be consistent on that day. Right now,