• February 18, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: The Biggest Marketing Mistake an Author Can Make


    amanda-squareI see author after author spend money and time on book trailers and digital shorts and book-specific websites and splash pages and artwork and bookmarks and THINGS.

    I see them show off their items proudly, because LOOK HOW PRETTY! THIS CLICKY PEN WILL CERTAINLY GET PEOPLE TO BUY MY BOOK!

    But then there the box of pens sits. And sure, they hand out a few pens at conferences and at church or school or work, but they’ve still got a lot of pens. Not to mention that book trailer no one has viewed. That website that no one has gone to. That $0.99 ebook that was sure to entice people to buy the real book.

    Why does this happen?

    No one knows about the clicky pens. Or the book trailer. Or the website. Or the super cheap ebook.

    And the reason no one knows about these things is also the very reason that this person’s book isn’t selling. It’s not because the book is bad or boring or poorly written. It’s because no one knows it exists.

    Let’s look at a really specific example …

    You have a book. Yay! You hope people buy the book. I mean you’ve told your friends and family, right? That should count for SOMETHING.

    But the numbers come back. Sales are bad. You haven’t even cracked 2,000 copies sold. You need to make a change. You start thinking about what it is that could make the book more enticing.

    Eureka! You’re a great baker! Why don’t you put some free recipes together that coincide?

    You slap the recipes online and sit back and wait just like you did before. Your numbers come from your publisher again. You STILL haven’t broken the 2,000 mark, and in fact, you’re going in the opposite direction because of all those  returns!!

    Why is this happening?!

    You check your recipe downloads. It’s pitiful. Clearly not helping. But how do

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  • February 15, 2016

    What does a writer need to know about marketing?


    In today’s publishing market, there are a handful of things I think every author needs to know about marketing. These are all things you can think through, and though none of this is going to be earth-shattering or terribly “new” to you (my guess is you’ve heard much of this before), sometimes we can think about choosing certain marketing strategies or ideas, then lose track of the bigger picture. Or we assume the publisher is going to take care of things, when in fact they’re busy worrying about the new 50 Shades novel they’ve just released, and they’re waiting for YOU to market your own book. So let me offer a big-picture look at marketing your book in today’s environment…
    First, you have to know yourself. What are your strengths at marketing? What do you do best? What is your message? How do you define your brand? What are the elements of marketing you  love to do? The fact is, if you know your core competencies, know what you do well and what you’re comfortable with, you’re ahead of most authors who are just trying ideas they’ve heard from others. So think back through your history, and make a list of the areas where you were good and comfortable and successful with your marketing. What are the resources you have available to you? Next, make a list of the opportunities you know you’ll have — the people, places, organizations, media, and venues you know you’ll be able to count on.
    Second, you have to know your weaknesses. What are the typical problems you have with marketing? What are your struggles? What do you NOT enjoy? What are the roadblocks you face? (Hint: often these include lack of money, lack of time, and lack of expertise.) As you think through the problem areas, you’re trying to clarify both the strengths and the weaknesses, the resources and the roadblocks that are
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  • February 12, 2016

    Your Writers Conference: A Reason to Go instead of Say No (a guest blog from Ann Stewart)

    by Ann Marie Stewart

    ConferenceFor years I balked at the idea of going to a writers conference. I had a lot of really great excuses: It’s not a good time. Kids are too little. It’s too far away. Our family can’t afford it right now. But when my youngest daughter was heading off to Kindergarten, I knew I needed to head off to a writers conference. Looking at location, staffing, and courses, I selected Write-to-Publish in Chicago. Now would my little adventure pay off?

    Of all the writers conference perks, making friends turned out to be the most valuable. I proposed a study to AMG’s Rick Steele and Dan Penwell. I met a wonderful editor named Nick Harrison, who read my short story and was positive and encouraging. And I also met this witty, sarcastic fellow named Chip MacGregor who enjoyed the first page of my short story enough to say, “I’m not an agent right now but if I were, I’d be interested in this piece.” (At the time he was a publisher with Time Warner.)

    After the conference, I immediately signed a book contract with AMG for Preparing My Heart for Advent which led to additional Preparing My Heart books. Later I developed the short story into a novel. When I thought the novel was almost ready (note: almost is not good enough), I went back to now-agent Chip MacGregor who was interested—almost, but not quite enough. So I spent more time revising, editing, and polishing. I then contacted editor Nick Harrison, who, though it wasn’t a fit for Harvest House, read the full manuscript and asked if he could bring it to the attention of a great agent. Trouble was, the agent was Chip MacGregor who had already seen the piece at almost ready. Thankfully, through Nick’s recommendation, Chip gave it another read and Chip and I talked about the novel at Blue Ridge Writers Conference. Chip provided direction for

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  • February 11, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: Don’t Believe These 5 Book Marketing Lies


    amanda-squareThere is nothing easy about book marketing. Nothing.

    And yet if you spend any amount of time reading up on it, you’re led to believe otherwise. Posts and comments tend to make it sound like a walk in the park. Do this and that and that again and voila! You’re golden.

    And then you try this and that and that again and … crickets.

    It’s easy to feel as though everyone has marketing figured out, while you struggle to get a single follow, a single like, a single comment on your blog.

    Because it’s so hard, we naturally come up with reasons as to why it’s not working for us … or why it is working for others. And we come up with excuses as to why we haven’t put together a strategy or why we haven’t called in some marketing favors.

    These excuses and reasonings may make us feel better, but we’re ultimately hurting ourselves and our careers. A book that isn’t marketed certainly isn’t going to sell itself. But a book that is marketed has a fighting chance.

    And a chance is all it takes.

    5 BOOK MARKETING LIES as gleaned from the writers I’ve talked to over the years.

    1. I don’t have a book, so I have nothing to market.

    I hear this all the time from aspiring writers, and while I can see their point, the issue here is that they aren’t viewing the situation properly. If being an author is a career and your books are your business, then that makes readers your customers. The best way to connect with customers isn’t to throw marketing and sales pitches at them, saying buy, buy, BUY! Rather, it’s the relationship that counts in the long run. So if you’re an aspiring historical fiction author, hang out with the historical fiction readers! If you’re an aspiring romantic comedy writer, find where the lovers of all things chick

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  • Brian

    February 10, 2016

    Wherever You Go…There You Are


    Publishing & Technology: Wherever You Go…There You Are

    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be taking a break from talking about either publishing or technology (I know it’s my first post since the new website and blog went live).  Instead I’ll go through the rundown of the conferences I’ll be attending this year and in what capacity.

    January 30th Write to Publish at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. I’ll be sitting on a panel with another agent and two lawyers discussing intellectual property rights, trademark, copyright issues, and how they impact the publishing process.  http://ooligan.pdx.edu/writetopublish/

    April 16th – Terroir Creative Writing Festival at Chemeketa Community College in McMinnville, Oregon. I’ll be giving a one-hour class on finding and working with an agent and freelance editors, and the publishing process in general. http://terroircreativewritingfestival.com/

    May 11th-13th – Book Expo America in New York. I’ll be attending in my capacity as our foreign and subsidiary rights agent. http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/

    July 28th-31st – Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Conference at the Doubletree in Seatac, Washington. I’ll be listening to pitches and participating in panels, workshops, etc.


    August 12th-14th – Willamette Writers Conference at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel here in Portland, Oregon. I’ll be listening to pitches and participating in panels, workshops, etc. http://willamettewriters.org/wwcon/

    October 19th-23rd – Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany. I’ll be attending in my capacity as our foreign and subsidiary rights agent. http://www.buchmesse.de/en/fbf/

    November 5th – Wordstock at the Portland Art Museum here in Portland, Oregon. Participation level TBD at this point. http://www.literary-arts.org/what-we-do/wordstock/

    That’s all we know about for now. I’ll keep the blog posted if something big develops. I hope to see you out there somewhere. In the interim, keep writing!

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  • February 9, 2016

    Literary Devices for the Real World: Tone


    Welcome back to my series on literary devices and how to use them to your best advantage this side of your college lit classroom. This week, we’re talking about tone: what it is, how to identify it in your own writing, and how to harness it to create the atmosphere you want to create in your writing.

    Tone 101

    Let’s start with the technical definition: tone is the attitude adopted by the author toward the events of the story. Tone is revealed through the author’s word choice, commentary, and syntax, and is on display whenever the author uses these elements to reveal his bias toward certain characters, themes, or incidents occurring in the story.

    The (arguably) most effective tool an author has at her disposal when creating tone is her word choice. Just about every word in the English language has a whole set of baggage attached to it based on the books you’ve read, the conversations you’ve had, even the region you grew up in, and while this baggage varies slightly from reader to reader because of the unique background of each one, most English-speaking US readers have approximately the same response to 85% (completely made-up statistic) of the words an author could use to describe a character– tell us a character is “crafty,” or his movements are “shifty,” and we know you’re telling us you don’t believe the character is very trustworthy. Tell us someone “walks with a swagger” and we know you think they’re arrogant.

    This subtle (or sometimes not) indication of his bias on the part of the author can reveal a whole host of inferences– word choice tells the reader whether the author believes a character is to be pitied, admired, patronized, snubbed, whether a setting is pleasant, boring, tasteful, or ugly, whether an incident is tragic, deserved, funny, or insignificant, etc. People generally classify “bias” as a bad thing, accusing news sources of

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  • February 4, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: My Path to Becoming an Agent


    1People are always curious to know how I became an agent. Did I intern with the agency? Did I apply and get hired? Did I go through a special program? Did Chip owe my dad a favor?

    I’ve found there are usually two paths to working in publishing. One involves getting the right internships and then getting hired on afterward. And the other involves just being in the right place at the right time.

    For me it all happened at a book signing in 2008. In Fort Wayne, Indiana.

    I was working as an admissions counselor at a university at which Chip was a visiting professor. My friend, who happened to be a student there, kept telling me about this big-time agent who was on campus and how I needed to meet him. But despite it being a very small school, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who he was.

    (Now, in retrospect, I had seen him around campus. But with his goatee and pressed dress shirt, I assumed he was the new Pastoral Ministries prof.)

    So the only way to be sure to meet him, my friend decided, was to trap him at an author book signing.

    At the time, I (ashamedly) didn’t recognize the name of the author holding the book signing (Chip tells me it was Lisa Samson), and I honestly didn’t know very much about Chip or the role of an agent. But I DID know that my friend had told me he was epic. And that he had worked with Britney Spears’s mom. Which, let’s be honest, was enough to get me really wanting this to happen.

    I mean, what else could come of it than me being Brit Brit’s bestie?

    So, off we went. We walked in to the store; my friend located Chip; and then I took a breath, walked up, and introduced myself.

    He said something sarcastic.

    I said

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  • February 3, 2016

    Literary Devices for the Real World: Foreshadowing


    Old open book with a vintage library background

    Welcome to week three of Literary Devices for the Real World! I’m talking today about one of those classic high school literary devices teachers and textbooks loved to point out, foreshadowing.

    You may remember learning about foreshadowing from poems like The Highwayman and short stories such as The Lottery or The Tell-Tale Heart, and if so, it might be that you associate foreshadowing chiefly with melodrama and literary horror. The idea that foreshadowing = foreboding, however, or that foreshadowing is a tool of literary writers only is a far too narrow understanding of foreshadowing and its function in storytelling. The fact is that foreshadowing shows up everywhere, in all types of stories, literary or otherwise, chick lit or mystery. It can show up in any genre, adding dimension, helping to catch and hold the reader’s interest, and helping to establish or reinforce the tone of a story. Foreshadowing is a device storytellers instinctively use to heighten their audience’s emotional response to their story— even if you don’t specifically set out to include it, you most likely will do so without a conscious effort. Recognizing the variety of techniques for accomplishing foreshadowing and knowing the ways it can strengthen or heighten your story can help ensure that you’re maximizing its potential to enhance your reader’s experience of your story.

    Let’s first take a look at some foreshadowing basics. Foreshadowing, by definition, is an allusion to or hint at something yet to happen in a story. It can be subtle, such as a sneeze in chapter 1 from the character who’s going to die of pneumonia in chapter 10, or obvious, such as a direct revelation from the author or narrator (Shakespeare starts Romeo and Juliet by telling the reader/audience that in the story, “a pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life”). Foreshadowing can occur in dialogue (“I forgot you can’t swim. Don’t you get nervous living so close

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  • February 1, 2016

    About that million seller…


    Old BooksSo today I received a proposal that included these words: “This is a sure-fire million seller!”

    Uh-huh. Everybody thinks they’re going to sell a million copies. They hear about Fifty Shades of Gray and Hunger Games, and they think, “My book is just as good as those!”

    Want a dose of reality? The 2015 sales reports are out. Take a look at how many books actually sold a million copies last year…

    Of the hundreds of children’s and YA books that released last year, how many actually sold a million copies? One. That’s right — one. Old School, the tenth book in the Jeff Kenney Diary of a Wimpy Kid series was the only book last year that sold a million copies in print. John Green’s Paper Towns surpassed a million copies if you include print and ebook sales, but in print, there was ONE book. (And by the way, the bestselling print author in this genre last year is a guy who passed away 25 years ago — Dr Seuss sold a half-million copies of Oh the Places You’ll Go, and nearly that many copies of What Pet Should I Get, Green Eggs and Ham, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.) 

    And although there were thousands of nonfiction books released last year, guess how many sold more than a million copies in print? Um, one. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, and aimed at all those slightly-OCD people like me, was the only title to surpass the million mark. To be fair, Chris Kyle’s American Sniper actually sold more than a million copies in print, but half were in a trade size book and half were in mass market, and those are treated as two different books by the crazy reporting system we have in publishing. It’s also a lock that Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Reagan had to have surpassed the million mark if

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  • January 28, 2016

    Thursdays with Amanda: Your Website Is Your Baby


    amanda-squareAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. She used to post on this blog every Thursday, but then things got busy and she had to prioritize. So she took a break. Amanda is smart. Be like Amanda.

    There’s one thing I’ve noticed about expectant moms these days (and no, this isn’t a post about pregnancy or motherhood)…Moms will spend weeks visiting various hospitals in their area, looking for the perfect match for their needs and expectations. They consider everything from doctor availability to space to freebies to distance from home to overall comfort level. They weigh each item against the other until a clear winner emerges.

    It makes sense when you think about how important having a baby is.

    But what if I told you that they do the same thing when purchasing a stroller or crib or carseat? What if I told you that moms these days tend to turn every babygear decision into an extensive list of pros and cons?

    Agents and editors frequently mention the need for a professional webpage, website, or blog. But one of the most common mistakes authors (and people in general) make when venturing into a relationship with a web designer is that they don’t view their career as their baby. They fail to ask questions. They fail to vet those that they hire and truly understand what they’re signing up (and paying!) for.

    So, before enlisting some Joe Schmoe designer to do your website, present him with these five questions:

    1. Can you show me examples of your previous work? Just like every author writes with a unique voice, every artist creates with a unique point of view. So before you ever consider hiring anyone to do design work for you, you must connect with their artwork. Ask to see samples (because what you see is oftentimes what you’ll get). If you like what you see, then you may have a
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