• July 11, 2014

    Does a beginning writer need an agent? (and other questions from authors)


    Someone wrote to ask, “In your opinion, does a beginning writer need an agent?”

    In my view, it depends on the writer. There are some authors who are well connected in the industry, don’t mind dealing with contracts and negotiations, understand career direction, and can survive without an agent. But in my experience, it’s rare to do those things well while maintaining a writing career. I used to tell people that I’m not an evangelist for agents, and over the past 15 years or so I’ve tried to maintain a balance — I haven’t always believed that every writer needs an agent in order to succeed. But in light of all the changing issues in publishing today, I’m now changing my tune. Most legacy publishers require you to have an agent or they won’t look at your material. And most traditional publishers have moved toward relying on agents to be the first filter in the system, reviewing proposals and weeding out the chaff. Working with an agent professionalizes the relationship — an agent is not as emotionally tied to a work as an author, so he or she can be more dispassionate about discussing a project, and the agent is going to be more familiar with the business of contracts, so ostensibly things will move along better for both sides.

    I recognize that some have said the future is in self-publishing, so that means authors won’t need agents. I think that’s completely wrong-headed. If you’re going to be responsible for your book, you might think about working with someone who knows the industry already and can help you. Think of the way realtors have changed the home buying market: You can still sell your home by owner, but it’s gotten considerably more complex to do so. You’ve got to know the market, understand how to show your home, know how to get the word out, feel comfortable negotiating a price,

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  • July 10, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Musts for an Author Website


    2013amanda2Amanda 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.

    Websites…every author should have one. They are your central hub; your validation point. They are what will tell the world that you’re up and running and serious about this writing thing and that you aren’t going anywhere soon. All because you have a website.

    It may seem silly, but that’s how we view these online spaces. They have a way of making everything OFFICIAL in a way that Facebook and Twitter and Google+ can’t. Weird, yes. But it’s true. I mean how many times have you googled a band, a company, a service provider and winced at the fact that while they may have a million Yelp recommendations or a slew of Facebook follows, they don’t have a site?

    There’s something about a website…it’s like an online stamp of approval. And so yes, every author should have one. In the past I’ve talked about the components of a website, and I also touch on this in my book, but I wanted to provide a down and dirty list of 5 MUSTS FOR AN AUTHOR WEBSITE.

    My hope is that you’ll spend the weekend adjusting your site to hit on each of these five things.

    1. LINKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA. Take a look at your site’s home page. Is there a clear way for visitors to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram? Do you have those buttons clearly displayed? This is important, because you don’t know how your fans will want to interact with you. When they show up to your site, it’s an opportunity to
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  • July 7, 2014

    If you're new to the world of publishing…


    I’m a big supporter of authors trying to self-publish their out-of-print works (and sometimes their new works, depending on the author and situation), and I’ve had a number of authors write to ask questions about publishing terms and traditions. I thought you might find it helpful to know some of the official nomenclature we use in the industry:

    The FRONT MATTER is all of the information that goes in the front of the book, between the cover and the actual text. It usually contains a bunch of legal and technical information about the book, and the pages are all numbered, but they often don’t have actual page numbers showing up (at least not on what are called the “display” pages — the title page, the half title page, the copyright page, the dedication page, any blank pages, etc).

    There are a number of elements to the Front Matter that require special terms: the title page (which has the complete title, subtitle, author name, and publisher) the half-titlte page (which just has the book’s title), the copyright page, the legal or copyright acknowledgements (if you needed permission for anything in your text), the dedication, acknowledgements, and table of contents. There will also be a colophon, a more recent development in publishing a book that details the font, the printer, and any special production notes about the book.

    There are also a number of additional Front Matter pieces that are used less often: a foreword (written by someone other than the author, to introduce the topic), a preface (written by the author to explain HOW the book was written), an introduction (written by the author to explain WHY the book was written), a prologue (written by the narrator or a character in the novel to set the scene or give important background information), an epigraph (usually a poem or quote pertinent to the story), and the author’s acknowledgements (so you can tell

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  • July 4, 2014

    Happy 4th of July! (a rant)


    So I had a post I was going to share today, even though it’s a holiday. I was checking some news online, when my phone rang. It was 9 in the morning.

    Old guy’s voice: “Hello, I sent you a book proposal last week, and–”

    Me: “But you’re not really calling me at home on the 4th of July to talk about it, right?”

    Old guy’s voice: “Well, the 4th of July is the perfect day, since it gets into American history.”

    Me: “Really? You’re calling my cell phone on the morning of the 4th of July to pitch your book?”

    Old guy’s voice: “I thought you were a Christian.”

    Me: “Um, I AM a Christian. I don’t see –”

    Old guy’s voice: “You’re not showing the fruit of the spirit…”

    Me: (Hanging up.)

    Suddenly, it put me out of the holiday spirit. But it DOES motivate me to say something: I love books. I can honestly say that my life has been changed by books that I’ve read, and there’s not that many things in life we can point to and say that. A handful of people, a handful of books, a few decisions or events. So I’ve given my life to books and words and helping authors create books that make a difference. And YOUR book might be one of those fabulous books that makes a difference. But… you don’t just have a book — you have a life. Live it. Your book is important, but perhaps not the single most important thing in the world. Today is the day to go see a parade, watch a baseball game, barbecue, swap stories with the family. NOT to call an agent.

    I don’t mean to be a jerk about this. I love going to writers’ conferences, since there’s great energy and it’s fun to sit and talk ideas and projects and books and authors. I rarely mind being pitched

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  • July 3, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: Attend a “Thursdays with Amanda” Workshop!


    2013amanda2Amanda 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.


    If you love my Thursday posts on marketing, and if you’ve ever wished for an in-person “Thursdays with Amanda-type” event, then you’re in for a treat.

    You’re invited to come hang out with me (and Chip, of course!), for a marketing intensive on Sunday, August 24th, in Nashville, Tennessee.

    HERE ARE THE DETAILS! And no, this will NOT simply be a rehashing of the info found in my book, The Extroverted Writer. Sure, we’ll touch on that a tiny bit, but we’ll also be bringing to life the content found in my blog posts, as well as new material. Plus, there will be plenty of time for you to ask questions, share your marketing struggles or victories, and learn from others in attendance.

    Questions? Sound off in the comments below! And please share with your friends!


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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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  • June 30, 2014

    What if I'm a part-time writer, part-time something else?


    A friend wrote to say, “I have a degree in teaching, and I’ve taken classes in a professional writing program… but I feel stuck between two careers. What do I do?”

    If you’re trying to make it as a writer, you’ve got an uphill climb. But so does everybody who wants to make a living with art. Making a living in the arts (ANY art) is hard. Here’s an example I’ve used several times: I’m a pretty good ballroom dancer. (Really. Publishers love it when I come to their publishing balls, since there will be 300 authors and 6 guys who know how to dance.) I took lessons, was in dance classes, and hoofed it in musical theater. If you saw me on the dance floor at the Harlequin ball, you might think I was head and shoulders above most beginners. But I realize there’s a huge gap between being pretty good at the local dance club and asking people to pay $80 to come watch me dance in a show on Broadway. There’s a gap between being “pretty good” and being “a professional.”

    My son is a good guitar player, but there’s quite a leap from playing in a garage band and asking people to plunk down $18 for your latest album on iTunes. My daughter Molly could act and was in the plays in school — but there’s a big gap between “being pretty good in the high school comedy” and “asking people to come see me at an equity theater.” All of us who grew up in churches have heard really good singers over the years… but there’s a big gap between the woman who is pretty good with a solo in the Christmas concert and the professional singer who has been granted a record contract.

    So just because someone is a pretty fair writer doesn’t mean she can expect a reader to pay $25 for her

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  • June 26, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: Who Schedules a Book Signing?


    2013amanda2Amanda 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.

    I’m at a young writers conference this week, so to make for a shorter blog post, I’m going to answer this question that came in response to my post on The Book Marketing Process.

    “…does the author schedule bookstore signings and readings or is that something the agent/publisher does?”  – Sara

    First of all, signings and readings and in-store events aren’t what they once were. Authors who pursue these marketing options are many times lucky to see a dozen people show up. When you take into consideration the time it takes to plan and put on such an event, it’s clearly not a worthwhile strategy.

    HOWEVER, some authors have the “in-store event” gene, and they can do it quite well. For these authors, the planning and scheduling falls on them. They can ask their publisher to create posters that they can use to advertise each event. (The posters shouldn’t have dates and times, but rather a space for the author to fill that info in on their own…this allows the publisher to send a large amount of posters that the author can use for all his/her events). They can also ask for other simple promotional materials, but other than that, the publisher doesn’t play a role in this kind of marketing.

    The only time when this doesn’t ring true is when the publisher has decided to send an author out on tour. In this case, the publisher will schedule and pay for everything.

    So there you have it!

    Have you done in-store events? What was your experience

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  • June 25, 2014

    As a working writer, how do I create a budget?


    Several people read my Monday blog and asked me, “What does a writing budget look like?”

    Here’s the basic idea…

    1. The author sets a financial goal for the year. It’s got to be something that is livable (if the writer is attempting to make this a full-time job) and reachable (so there’s no setting a goal of “a bazillion dollars”). Let’s say, for someone just moving into full-time writing, the goal is $36,000 per year. Yeah, that’s pretty skinny, but at least it’s a real wage for most writers. So figure out how much you need to earn in a year from your writing.

    2. I encourage an author to break that annual figure into monthly chunks — so in our example, the author’s goal is $3000 per month.

    3. The next step is to add up what the author expects to earn on the writing they are doing. How much in contracts does she already have? What other writing does she know she’ll be doing and getting paid for? That will help her figure out how much money is coming in, and how much she needs to add. Let’s say an author has a royalty check coming in May, expects to have completion money on a book contract in July, and is expecting to sell a project in October. All you have to do is to figure out the amounts and write them onto your writing calendar. Nothing will give an author more clarity than hard numbers written down on a calendar — it’s a way of saying, “I’m making this… so now I need to work to make that.”

    4. The obvious thing to do next is to match up dates and amounts. If you know you’re going to be working on a book in March/April/May, you can write down how much you’re making on that project. By looking at your calendar, you’ll see where

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  • June 23, 2014

    How can a writer create a career plan?


    I have a background in organizational development — my graduate degree focused on how an organization grows and changes over time. In my job as a literary agent, I’ve found it’s proven helpful when talking to writers about their careers. You see, my contention is that some agents pay lip service to “helping authors with career planning,” but many don’t really have a method for doing that. (Actually, from the look of it, some don’t even know what it means. I think “career planning” to some people is defined as “having a book contract.”) During my doctoral program at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), I served as a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Career Planning and Placement Office. The focus was on helping people graduating in the arts figure out how to create a career plan, and that experience allowed me the opportunity to apply the principles of organizational theory to the real-world setting of those trying to make a living with words. In other words, I figured out how to walk an author through a real-world career map. So here are a few things I like to consider when talking with a writer…

    First, I want to get to know the author. Who is he (or she)? What’s the platform he brings to the process? Does she speak? If so, where, how often, to whom, to how many, and on what topics? Does he have experience with other media? What kind? What’s her message? What books has she done in the past? What other writing is the author doing that could boost the platform? If I can get to know an author, I can better help him or her to make wise career decisions that fit their own personal vision.

    Second, I want to find out about the author’s past. What were the significant events and accomplishments? What experiences did the author have that she liked or hated?

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