Category : Uncategorized

  • September 2, 2014

    Quotations in Writing, or: Unashamedly Exploiting Readers’ Emotional Reactions to Other Books


    brick green no smile b:wI went to the movies over the long weekend (twice, actually) and found myself tearing up over a TRAILER, for goodness sake. Now, it’s fairly easy to make me cry in a movie– I’m a sucker for a good montage underscored by emotive music– but I never cry over a trailer. Well, almost never. One out of four, at the most. Anyway, the guilty trailer this time was for “Interstellar,” and for the first 3/4 of it, I wasn’t really even sure what the movie was about other than a bleak future and Matthew McConaughey as an astronaut, and I definitely didn’t think I was emotionally involved, but THEN Michael Caine started reading Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” in a rich British voice over dramatic shots of peril and an emotive soundtrack and all bets were off. The manipulative folks who put that trailer together were able to tap into the existing emotional ties I have to that piece of poetry and suddenly, I saw their story as ten times more compelling and profound. Well played, trailer-makers.

    In the same way, authors who effectively quote or reference other works of literature in their stories are able to draw on my existing set of emotions towards that work and manipulate me (in a good way) into a heightened feeling of connection with a story or camaraderie with the author. Obviously, quoting or referencing a superior piece of work is not going to trick a reader into thinking that a crappy story is actually brilliant or profound (I probably wouldn’t have cried had the Michael Caine voiceover accompanied a compilation of funny cat videos), but when used naturally in an already-strong story, it can be an effective device for creating a deeper bond between your reader and a story/character, or even between your reader and you as the author.

    As a reader, I’ve encountered this many

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  • August 29, 2014

    Is Writing Lonely? Nah… (a guest blog)


    Writing has the potential to be a lonely endeavor.

    Writing well is never, not one time, about going it alone. Writers need people. We have friends who help us brainstorm, listen to our rants about characters with lives of their own, or shake their heads when a plot twist is the most cockamamie idea ever considered. We have family members who endure weird facial expressions and odd body gestures as we attempt to describe the actions of our characters. Many of us have agents, who have assistants, who seek out opportunities, all the while challenging us to dig deeper in our storytelling. If we’re published, we have editors and cover designers and marketers and publishers and… well, you get the point.

    Writing is not a solo profession. If you are trying to fly the story-conjuring plane alone, you’re gonna crash and burn. As a Christian writer, I liken this journey to Paul’s analogy of the church as a body. Some are hands, eyes, mouths, feet. He gives every one of his children a talent or job. Ephesians tells us some are apostles or prophets or evangelists. In Romans, we find some have the gift of service or teaching or exhorting. Every book you read, or write, has a body of people who have fashioned its design.

    Without my friends to help me brainstorm, my readers might miss out on a terrific idea to improve the plot. Without my family, I might lose hope when the middle muddles together. Without my agent, I might miss a terrific opportunity. Without my editor, my scene might not be clearly written.

    You get the point.

    If your heart is tugged with the desire to tap fingers to a keyboard but you’re trying to go it alone, stop right now. This very minute. Join a writing group. Go to a conference. Talk to family and friends. Seek out people who will encourage your journey. We’re

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  • July 22, 2014

    Writing Effective Dialogue: Unnecessary Quotation Marks


    brick green no smile b:wI’m traveling today, so I’m postponing part three in my dialogue series for next week. I’ll probably talk more about correct use of quotation marks at some point in the future, but today I wanted to quickly warn you once and for all against using quotation marks for “emphasis.” You’ve all seen it on signage, a use of quotation marks that makes you “strongly” question the author’s “meaning.” If you don’t know what I mean, take a look at this fine collection of examples, courtesy of Distractify.


    What’s the worst example of misused quotation marks you’ve seen?

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  • July 2, 2014

    You're invited to a LIVE version of "Thursdays with Amanda"


    On SUNDAY, August 24, we’re going to try something new… a LIVE version of Amanda’s wonderful marketing information, set into a seminar format. Amanda and I will be in Nashville, at the Airport Embassy Suites, from 9 to 4, talking with authors about how to create a marketing plan for their books. Here’s what our outline looks like:

    — The New World of Author Marketing — What’s Working (and not working) in Today’s Market
    — Finding Your Audience and Reaching Your Readers
    — Choosing the Tools You’ll Use to Promote Your Book
    — Creating Your Own Personalized Marketing Plan
    — Building Your Author Platform (we are bringing in a specialist to offer some advice and direction)
    — Marketing with a Traditional Publisher vs Marketing Your Indie-Published Book

    We’ll also be spending some time talking about working effectively with your publicist, and how to work with a freelance publicist, and we’ll get into a bunch of discussions on related topics — one of the most fun aspects of doing this type of seminar is the chance to talk with other authors who are going through the marketing process. But that’s our basic outline for the day, and we’d love to have you join us!

    The cost is just $99 for the entire day, if you register in July (it will go up on August 1). Again, the focus of this day will be on doing something PRACTICAL — not on theory or on promoting a product. We just wanted to get authors together and have time to explore how an author can create his or her own marketing plan by focusing on ideas that actually work, so the emphasis will on on what an author can take and do, rather than on theory or philosophy. We hope you’ll join us. Please let me know if you plan to come by RSVPing me. Thanks, and we hope to see you in Nashville

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  • May 20, 2014



    By Guest Writer CYNTHIA HICKEY, bestselling author of mystery and romance

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    Or: Why I Love Being a Hybrid Author

    When I started writing seriously, I had the notion that reaching 100,000 copies of total works sold meant I’d reached success. Imagine my glee when I surpassed that number in only two years of serious writing and tracking sales. I’d met a personal milestone of success.

    The writing journey has been an exciting battle. In 2007, I received a contract for my first cozy mystery, followed by two more. Then, for more than two years, my writing career went stagnant. Figuring I could give my career a needed jumpstart, I put two old stories onto Amazon and Barnes and Noble . Sales climbed slowly, but each sale validated my decision. After I acquired my current agent, Chip MacGregor, he guided and encouraged me into re-releasing my cozies onto the new mystery line he was creating. The books began selling in dizzifying numbers .

    I continued to write for Chip’s mystery line while putting other stories independently on Kindle and Nook. Those sales, along with my traditional book contracts, enabled me to quit my day job in May of 2013. By the end of 2013, I’d sold more than 150,000 copies of my total works. I’ve been asked many times how I’ve accomplished this in a two-year time span. What’s my secret? I’m not sure there is any sure-fire approach to achieving success, but I focus mainly on two things:

    Discipline and flexibility.

    1) Discipline: I set up regular writing hours and daily word count goals, often writing seven days a week to meet those goals. My writing is my job. It’s a business; it’s like breathing. Not only am I writing on publishing deadlines, but I’m striving to meet my self-appointed deadlines. My “boss” is a tough cookie,

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  • May 19, 2014

    Why Publishing Articles and Short Stories is Still a Good Marketing Idea


    Guest blog  by BETH JUSINO, a marketing consultant, editor, writer, and former literary agent.


    “Writers are like farmers: The harvest comes, but only after you toil for a few seasons.”              – Cheryl Strayed

    Back in the day—that is, before Amazon—we used to tell writers that the best way to get a publisher’s attention and build their credentials was by publishing articles in magazines, short stories in literary journals, and (best of all) land regular magazine or newspaper columns. Publishing short pieces, after all, offered direct exposure to new audiences, and the two or three-line bio at the end of a piece introduced readers to an author’s website (if they had one) and any already-published books.

    And that’s all still true. Writing articles and short stories to market yourself as an author is an idea that’s gotten a little lost in the online onslaught of blogs and pins and tweets. But whether you’re in the process of building your platform or marketing your already-released book, a single essay in or Trout & Stream will expose you to more readers than most books reach in their lifetime. And that list of “has also published in” references in your author’s bio adds credibility to your future work. Readers trust authors with a track record.

    Like all useful things, it’s not easy. In the grand scheme of platform building exercises, publishing short pieces is a time consuming and often frustrating process. If you’ve never tackled article or short story writing, be prepared for a cycle of querying that’s similar to the agent or publisher hunt (though usually, at least, faster). Every outlet has its own guidelines for how they consider essays or ideas. And every outlet has its own voice and style. You’ll need to do some homework to understand the specific voice of a publication (do they like humor? Do their articles use a lot of statistics? Are their short stories all

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  • May 1, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: The Future of Literary Agents in a Digital World


    2014AmandaAmanda 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.


    All this talk about hybrid authors and self-publishing, and there’s one question that is bound to surface:

    Are agents a dying breed?

    Maybe. I mean some freakish thing could happen that changes everything and puts the final set of nails in the Literary Agent coffin, but the way things are shaping up, my answer would be “no.” We aren’t a dying breed, and here’s why…


    I’m no expert on the history of the literary agent, but it’s quite clear that the role was developed out of necessity. The typewriter, and later email, made it ridiculously easy for anyone to pound out a terrible novel and send it to the best editors the industry had to offer. Those terrible novels would fill up the queue, thus suffocating the really great publishable novels. Editors, whose time is valuable and limited…and who also have a tendency to spend much more time analyzing a manuscript than an agent does…eventually turned to agents to help weed through the bad and find the good.

    While we tend to think that indie and small houses are there for the unagented, the fact of the matter is that these publishers are more than willing to work with agents. In fact, they many times welcome it. They love when someone else has vetted the material before they even have to give it a look. And consequently, an agent can many times get a faster response from them than your typical unagented author. Why? Because there is a sense of professional responsibility.

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  • April 29, 2014

    Wrapping up our visit with a literary agent…


    All month I’ve been inviting writers to send in questions about what they would ask a literary agent if they could just sit down for a face-to-face chat. Here’s the latest bunch of questions as I try to wrap up the series…

    I’d love to figure out how to connect with an agent at a conference without coming across as a stalker. When I saw you in Indy, you were always surrounded by people vying for your attention. I don’t want to be a psychotic sycophant.

    First, you can often sign up for a meeting with an agent during the conference. Second, if all the slots are taken, try to find that agent and simply ask if there is a time to meet. (Be aware: There may not be. I always try to arrange my calendar with meeting times, but sometimes the days get filled.) Third, you may be able to catch an agent at a meal, or just after a workshop. Fourth, offer to help an agent out — maybe drive him to the airport, or offer to be the person who sets up and helps tear down. And fifth, I appreciate you not wanting to be a stalker. We’ve all had those crazy types who just don’t seem to have figured out the social grace it takes to have a polite conversation during the down times at a conference. Be aware that manners count, agents prefer people who act like they’re relatively normal, nobody likes to feel they’re constantly being pitched, and having a nice chat somewhere over a cup of coffee may be better than setting up the hoops and sparklers so you can do your special presentation on your new manuscript.

    Is it in the author’s best interest to acquire her own copyright for her book? I’ve always understood that it is. How can an author acquire those rights? And do publishers usually agree to that,

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  • April 24, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: The Future of Publishing According to Me


    2014AmandaAmanda 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.

    After spending the past number of weeks talking (and hailing) hybrid publishing (see posts here, here, here, and here), it begs a very important question…

    What is the future of publishing?

    As self-publishing continues to grow, as authors are offered more options to achieve their dreams, as traditional publishers continue to try and crack the e-publishing code, as start-ups focus primarily on e- and POD- publishing for their books, and as America’s reading habits evolve…where does that leave us?

    Where does that leave the book? The bookstore? The library?

    I’m no Predictor of the Future (well, okay, maybe I am a little), but I do have a few thoughts about where we’re headed…and I think it’s going to be an interesting ride.

    1. Eventually, it’s going to be fairly easy to get successful self-published books into bookstores. Someone, somewhere, with a ton of the right connections and enough money to give it a go is going to start a company that finds the best of the best in the self-publishing world and then presents those books to the buyers at B&N, Books-A-Million, Wal-Mart, etc. And because of this individual’s reputation and their product list of tried-and-true Amazon bestsellers, those stores are going to buy. And they’re going to shelve those books. This means that successful indie authors won’t ever have to partner with a publisher again to get their books into stores. They’ll just have to partner with an indie-friendly distributor. It‘s worth saying that there ARE venues that promise this kind of service,
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