• May 19, 2015

    Who are the humor writers you enjoy?


    I recently got this question in my in-box: “How about tossing a few crumbs to us humor writers on your blog? Do you have a favorite book on humor writing? How different was doing stand up comedy compared to writing humor?”


    My favorite books on humor writing probably include:

    The Comic Toolbox, by John Vorhaus

    The Hidden Tools of Comedy, by Steve Kaplan

    The Deer on a Bicycle, by Patrick McManus

    Stand-up Comedy, by Judy Carter

    There are a bunch of others that have value. Gene Perret has several good books on comedy writing. Greg Dean and Jay Sankey offer great pointers in their works. And Judy Carter’s book is there to help you be able to tell funny stories, more than write comic novels, but I find it’s a book I used to go back to time after time.

    There are similarities with these books, by the way. You create a script. You establish a character. The words you choose are important. But writing a humor piece is very different from performing standup comedy. When I did standup, it was all about timing and attitude. Pauses (silence) were crucial. The energy I brought to the stage was important. And, of course, the single most important thing to success as a standup comic is that the room has to LIKE you. If they like you, then you can do anything, and they’ll find it funny. If they don’t like you, no matter how great your material is, the performance won’t work. In writing, on the other hand, there’s no facial expression or tone of voice or obvious attitude for people to pick up on – all that matters is the word on the page. And it better be VERY good, because people who want humor don’t want to just smile once in a while… they want to bust out laughing while reading. That’s incredibly hard.

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  • May 18, 2015

    What have you wanted to Ask An Agent?


    I’ve been getting a lot of questions from writers about the author/agent relationship…

    I’m a published nonfiction author, looking for an agent to represent my fiction work. How do agents view writers looking for a “new” agent, given my change in genres?

    I tend to ask a lot of questions. I’d want to know if your nonfiction agent is on board with you working with someone else on your fiction. I would want expectations to be very clear. It’s true that most agents work predominantly in fiction or nonfiction, but it’s also true that most authors work with ONE agent for the bulk of their work.

    I’ve noticed that many agent websites state they hope to have a long-term relationship with their authors and help them publish for many years. On the one hand, this is very encouraging and certainly a desirable goal. But it does raise a question for those writers who are… less young than they once were. How have you found that agents/editors respond to a newer writer who is chronologically older? Is there still a willingness to work with these folks as well as the younger writers?

    Hmmm… I like the question, because it makes me think through the issue. Yes, I prefer to work with an author for several years and manage his or her career. But no, I don’t think I would normally say to myself, “This author is older, so I’m not going to choose to work with her.” The fact is, we’re all looking for great ideas and great writing, no matter what the age of the author is. I’ve taken on some writers who retired from their day jobs in order to focus their energies on writing.

    My question is whether a writer who is new to fiction, but who has written several non-fiction books needs to have the book completed before submitting proposals?

    An excellent question. Yes – if you’re

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  • Brian

    May 14, 2015

    2015 Foreign Rights Trends & Market Roundup


    Publishing & Technology: 2015 Foreign Rights Trends & Market Round-up

    BRT-Headshot 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 highlighting some of the developments and trends in foreign rights as reported by the Publishing Perspectives team of the Frankfurt Book Fair in their 2015 Global Perspectives on Book Rights and Licensing white paper. For the full white paper click follow the link on this page.
    “Translation can be your biggest market.”

    According to Samar Hammam of London-based Rocking Chair Books a book that might sell three to ten thousand copies domestically could conceivably sell ten times that amount in a single overseas market. Furthermore, according to another industry source “authors are achieving cult status” in foreign countries.

    The majority of translation deals are still made face-to-face despite the proliferation of digital listing services.

    Although many of the big houses have converted their internal systems to digital, or at least are in the middle of transitioning, lack of industry-wide definitions about rights, contracts, and royalties, among other logistical concerns, continues to impede the drive to a true digital marketplace for foreign rights and licensing.

    Market Round-up:

    Moving from fiction “toward nonfiction and children’s books…especially in China”

    Russia, Greece, Italy, and Spain, as well as The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries remain cautious. France and Germany “remain strong,” while the Polish and Czech markets are growing.

    Reports from Brazil are mixed, while the remainder of Latin America has begun to garner special attention as the “ongoing publishing crisis in Spain” has driven many agents and rights directors to “split rights among various Spanish-language territories and regions.”

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  • May 12, 2015

    And the winner of the 2015 Bad Poetry Contest is…


    Bad Poetry rules. One day those weenies who run the Pulitzer Prizes will wake up, realize they’ve been wasting their time with serious poets who want to write about stuff like “meaning” and “loneliness” and “reconciliation,” and instead they’ll realize there are a BUNCH of bad poets out there. People with no discernible skill. People with the depth of a potato chip. People who want to write bad poetry about squelching a slug with salt, or washing the dishes at mom’s house, or shooting zombies. In other IMG_0302words, my kind of people. 

    So this year I’m not quite able to convey a Pulitzer to the winner… but I do have a copy of Hiroyuki Nishigaki’s celebrated self-published book, How to Good-bye Depression: If you constrict anus 100 time everyday. Malarky? or Effective way? (Look it up. That’s the correct title and subtitle, complete with errors.) Many people in publishing believe it may be the worst self-pubbed title ever sold on Amazon. One chapter is titled “Erase your badf stickiness and multiply various good feeling.” Another has this surefire title: “Stare, shoot out immaterial fiber, ucceed  in concentrating, behave with abandon-largess-humor and beckon the spirit.” (A favorite chapter of mine. Complete with the word “ucceed.”) Anyway, this year’s lucky winner will receive their own fabulous copy. Try not to be jealous. (oh… the photo. That is a sandwich grilling machine that embeds the face of Christ into your sandwich. It’s called the “Grilled Cheez-ez.” It has nothing to do with the Bad Poetry Contest, but seemed somehow appropriate.)

    In third place is this bit of deepfulness from Christ Eleiott, how much pizza, which he notes is to be read in a breathy tone, with annoying peaks and valleys:

    A breath.

    A spirit. 

    A chicken. 

    Children play.

    Children laugh. 

    Children walk on the moon.


    Why will we never see Jonathan?

    Why does grandma eat cake for breakfast? 

    Pino key can unlock

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  • May 4, 2015

    It's time for our annual BAD POETRY CONTEST!


    This week is a special, heart-touching time of year, when all young writers turn to thoughts of bad poetry. That’s because, each year at this time, we take a week to celebrate my birthday — not with cards, not with songs, not with cutesy memes on Facebook that will make me want to gag. Instead, here we do the more creative thing… we create bad poetry. The badder, the better.

    A note about bad poetry: Some people just don’t get it. They seem to think we’re making fun of great poets. No indeed. We’re making fun of ALL poets. Those who think they are deep. Those who want to show they’re smarter than you. Those who rhyme “love” with “dove,” “glove,” and “above.” And most of all, those who call out, “Hey, look at me! I’m sensitive!” So the time has come once again to your bad poems. Stop the wordsmithing madness and start constipating on wrong rhythms and awful word choice. The 2015 Bad Poetry Contest is here!IMG_3310


    For those not in the know, we deal with books and publishing 51 weeks out of the year, answering questions and offering insights to writers and those interested in the world of publishing. But one week out of the year (my birthday week), we set aside the topic of publishing in order to share something much deeper… much more meaningful… much stupid-er. In the old British tradition of offering something falsely deep yet with a veneer of thoughtfulness, we hold a Bad Poetry Contest. Each year the readers send in truly horrible poetry, then a team of experts (me…and sometimes Mike, if he’s sober and I can convince him to help) offers a thorough evaluation of each piece (“That sucks… but this sucks worse.”). Eventually we come up with a winner, who is presented with a truly fabulous Grand Prize. One year it was a lava lamp

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  • May 1, 2015

    Ask the Agent: How can I know if this is the agent for me?


    I’ve recently had a bunch of agenty questions cross my desk…

    I understand the need to sell an agent on me and my work, but I also want an agent who I can work with long term.  At what point in the process is it appropriate for me to explore if we are compatible?  I’d hate to sell an agent on a proposal and then need to turn him or her down.

    But that happens all the time. It’s why I encourage authors to research agents, talk to them if at all possible, and see if the two of you are a fit. This is in many ways a business partnership, so you don’t want to be linked up with someone you don’t like, or don’t trust, or you just don’t feel on the same page with. Think of it this way: You don’t want to start a business with someone you have doubts about; you don’t want to be seeing a doctor that you don’t believe knows what he is doing; you don’t want to invest money with a fund manager you feel may be incompetent. This is why I frequently tell authors that I’m not the agent for everybody – writers sometime will hear me speak at a conference and think I’m the guy they want as an agent, but if we haven’t met and talked, I may be exactly the wrong type of match for them.

    So what to do? First, make sure you know what YOU need in an agent. Second, take some time to research the agents you’re talking to. Third, get a chance to talk with the agent for longer than a ten minute pitch session, so you can find out what he or she is like. Fourth, if at all possible, get a chance to meet the agent face to face, so you really get a feel for strengths, weaknesses, personal style, and

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  • April 30, 2015

    Thursdays with Amanda: Impatient Readers Are Not The Boss of You


    Amanda LuedekeAmanda 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.

    Have you ever said or heard a published author friend say the following?

    “I have to write this spin-off book because my fans are demanding it.”

    “I don’t have time for marketing right now, because my fans are going to kill me if I don’t get them the sequel asap.”

    “My readers won’t stop bothering me about my character Jack! They want a book about him and I’m stressing out because I don’t know how to fit it into my schedule.”

    The pressure readers can create is impressive. But it can also be distracting. 

    Let’s say you’re a rock star and you’re in a big arena doing a concert. You get done with a song and are about to move on to the next one on your set list when a group of fans in row two demand a very particular song from one of your lesser-known albums. What do you do? Do you obey them at the risk of making everyone else in the stadium frustrated at you for replacing a known and loved song with one of your b-side tunes?

    Or let’s get even more specific. Let’s say you were a writer for the show The Office. From season one, fans were chiding you about getting Jim and Pam together. Would you have given in to their demands even though you knew that if you dragged it out for a few seasons, it would be even more rewarding?

    In both of these cases, it’s easy for us to answer with resounding NO’s. Of course you wouldn’t

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  • Brian

    April 29, 2015

    Digital Publishing Trends and Opportunities


    Publishing & Technology: Digital Publishing Trends and Opportunities

    brt-headshotBrian 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 talking about three of the trends still effecting the ongoing evolution of digital publishing as reported by industry analyst Thad McIlroy of The Future of Publishing in December of last year in a white paper commissioned by Digital Book World. For the full white paper click here.

    Ebook formatting is still a work in progress. The existing formats worked just fine for text-only books but are still sadly lacking both for illustrated books and for interactive books.

    This continues to be a source of frustration to many in the publishing business. While ebook formatting for text-only is so simple that a trained middle schooler should have little to no trouble with it, adding images continues to be beyond approachable from a generalist’s perspective, and when digital audio, animation, or interactive content is thrown into the mix, you might as well start shopping for app developers. It remains to be seen if interactive text is a viable opportunity for the publishing industry, and with the bar to entry so high it may remain to be seen for some time yet.

    Subscription models are much in vogue these days, although their business model remains unproven.

    If publishers can get consumers to go along with discounted bundling within series and imprints, than subscription-based models as viable additional revenue streams don’t seem to be too far out in the realm of fantasy. But, if my experience running a literary magazine in the digital age taught me anything, it’s that subscription-based models are increasingly less attractive from a consumer’s perspective.

    Ebook pricing is only starting to be understood, with publishers trying to find the

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  • April 29, 2015

    How can I find a literary agent? (and 101 other questions asked by writers)


    Hey, my new book is releasing!

    Questions Book Cover

    Over the past several months, I’ve been answering your questions about how to find a literary agent, how to make a living with writing, how to maximize the marketing of your book, and dozens of other questions writers ask.

    The landscape in the publishing industry has shifted and blurred in the past decade. Writers, from novice to veterans, are struggling to re-define their job, their goals, and their role in the process. I’ve been more or less known for staying in front of the changing industry paradigms, offering support to writers and agents while hosting this industry blog and speaking on the writing conference circuit.

    So listen… if you were the writer lucky enough to sit down with an experienced agent over coffee, what would you ask?

    That’s what this book is all about. Inside, you will find answers to a collection of the top one hundred and one questions literary agents are asked every year—and some that should be asked. So if you’re an unpublished writer seeking to take the next step, or a seasoned writer bewildered by today’s evolving world of publishing, check out the new book Holly Lorincz and I created for The Benchmark Press. You can get it in hard copy or as an ebook by going here.

    And some nice words from writers:

    New York Time and USA Today bestselling author Vince Zandri said, “I can’t think of a better authority on agenting than one of the country’s best agents. Chip MacGregor not only pulled my career from out of the ashes, he guided it on a path to New York Times, Amazon, and USA Today bestselling-status. His management savvy and articulate knowledge of the ever changing publishing marketplace has enabled me to make a very good living writing fiction.”

    And Dwight Baker, the president of Baker Books, had this to say: “Chip Mac Gregor is the first

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  • April 29, 2015

    How to Ruin a Book at the Last Minute: Part 5, The Bait and Switch Ending


    brick green no smile b:wI’m nearing the end of my series on how to write great endings, and am talking briefly today about one of the most frustrating types of endings to read, for an agent, editor, or any other reader, the “bait and switch” ending, particularly in terms of the tone of a story.

    I’ve talked several times throughout this series about the importance of being fair to your reader in your endings– that you satisfy their sense of justice, that you’ve laid some groundwork for any surprises, etc.– yet I’m constantly surprised by the number of manuscripts I read that end in a way that is completely dissimilar to the tone/story universe/set of expectations the author has spent the entire preceding manuscript establishing. If you’ve spent 200 pages developing a nice, sweet, wholesome romance, don’t try to get all depressing and cynical at the end. If your comedic cozy mystery stayed on mostly “safe” ground for the first 3/4ths of the book, don’t turn it into a chilling, violent crime novel at the end. If you spent the majority of a book developing deeper themes and a more literary voice, don’t just slap a conventional romance ending onto it and call it a day.

    I want a book to end with the same “flavor” that compelled me to follow the story through to completion. It’s as if someone ordered a mint-chocolate-chip ice cream cone but the soda jerk decided to put a dollop of lemon sorbet at the bottom– even if the lemon sorbet is good, it’s not what the customer was expecting, and it’s not going to compare favorably to the mint-chocolate-chip, coming as it does when they’re not expecting it and have their mouth all set for something completely different.

    There are a number of reasons this happens, even to experienced authors. First, writing is largely a solitary profession. Even if you have a critique partner/group to bounce ideas off

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