• March 13, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: Video Critiques, part 2


    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.

    Today, we’re going to take a look at some more author videos (ones that were submitted for critique), and we’ll start by one from The Writing Sisters:


    I like the concept of this one in which the authors really sell themselves while providing plenty of things to look at. It does seem slightly dated with the music and the color of the background, but you know…I think it still does the job.

    And what job may that be?

    This video is a sort of pitch video. It can be used when trying to secure speaking engagements OR, more importantly, when trying to win over a publishing team. In publishing, we do business with people that we like, and authors should take any chance they can get to make a great impression and win over a publishing house. A video such as this would be played during the pub board meeting. It would help the team feel more connected with the authors, whose book they’re evaluating, and in turn would make them more likely to say ‘yes.’ This video I think would accomplish that, as it does a great job of positioning the authors not only as experts and experienced in their field, but as people who will be really fun to work with. That’s a win-win.

    The next video is another pitch video, but this one from a brand new writer who is seeking representation:

    I think Jessica did a great job maintaining a professional demeanor while also communicating passionately about her book. Her lines were memorized

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  • March 6, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: Video Critiques


    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.

    I’d like to wrap up my series on book videos by taking a look at some videos from readers. These were submitted to me after my call for video submissions last week, and I have the authors’ permission to dissect them online…but still, I promise to be nice!

    The first is a publisher-created book trailer from author Elizabeth Ludwig for her Edge of Freedom Series:

    So this is  a great example of the kind of video that publishers usually produce (though I was informed that Bethany House did NOT produce this particular trailer). It’s well-done, but it’s nothing but vague text, thrilling music, and random video clips. And what’s more is that when everything is put together, it tells a muddled story…

    Because publishers don’t actually go out and film the clips that are used in trailers (they buy them off of stock sites), you end up with a product that lacks cohesion. Everything looks like it came from something else…and it did. So if you’ve ever watched a book trailer and felt lost or confused, it’s not you. It’s the mixture of all of the various clips that are trying so desperately to come together to tell one story while falling short.

    When I watched, it took me awhile to figure out not only where we were, but what time period. The Celtic music and typography narrowed the possibilities. But then you have an almost viking-looking ship (circa 1100s), a shot of a modern-day handgun, medieval-like tavern and horse clips, and finally a shot of the Brooklyn

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  • March 3, 2014

    A Monday with Amanda: How to Break into Christian Speculative Fiction


    Amanda Luedeke, here. I don’t write too often on topics and issues that pertain to a particular genre or writer group. When you handle both Christian and general market books, you try to stay away from specifics. It’s what keeps everyone happy and coming back for more. But, since it’s Monday and since I have the microphone, I’d like to talk a bit about Christian speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror). I did this some weeks ago when the big sale of Marcher Lord Press hit the blogosphere, and I’d like to follow that up with something chock-full of the practicality that I’m known and loved/hated for.

    Writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction is hard.

    I could probably end the post there. But knowing this writer demographic quite well, I understand that it is full of fanboys and fangirls who suffer from addictive personalities and an ability to brush off that which is “hard” and escape into their worlds of fantasy.  For some, this his how they got through high school (specifically gym class, am I right?), so “hard” means nothing. “Hard” is simply part of life.

    So let me paint “hard” into a picture for you…and then let me offer some hope.


    There are only a handful of publishers who will truly consider a speculative fiction manuscript. Sure, I could get a spec fic project in front of maybe ten houses, but there are roughly four that would take it seriously. And of those four, only two are actively acquiring in the genre. (Meaning the other two only acquire when they think they have room…and 99% of the time they only have room for fantasy).

    Of those two active houses, one acquires primarily teen- or children-aged fiction.

    The other does primarily adult fiction.

    So that leaves most authors with one house to go to. One, measly house.

    There are a few others that I’m sure I’m missing.

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  • February 27, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: Free Video Critique



    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. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Here’s where your author, promo, or book video gets put to the test.

    We’ve been talking a lot about book trailers and videos lately. We started on this journey by looking at the different types of viral videos. Then, I compared two book trailers, showing how a great, viral-type trailer can increase awareness. Then we looked at the components of a viral video, and lastly, I shared some ideas that would make creating a viral video easier.

    Yet, all of this is just speculation. It’s just information.

    So let’s look at YOUR videos. I promise to be nice. But I also promise to be honest.

    Post the YouTube link to your book trailer/author video/video promo below, and I’ll share my thoughts. What I think was done right, what I think needs work, and maybe even some ideas of how you could recraft it to hit that viral potential that is so droolworthy.

    Any takers? Anyone? This is your chance to get my opinion on something for absolutely free!


    LIKE MY MARKETING ADVICE? My book, The Extroverted Writer is now available in print!

    FRONT Business_Card_Vertical


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  • February 22, 2014

    Author Earnings, Amazon, and the Future of Ebooks


    There has been a ton of discussion over a report on author earnings  by ebook authors (which you can find here: http://authorearnings.com/the-report/), the response to it (http://tinyurl.com/pcebsd5), and the responses to the responses (two of the best are http://tinyurl.com/kbjts5s and http://tinyurl.com/omkjz6v ). If you follow this discussions in our industry, you already know what’s going on: successful self-published author of Wool, Hugh Howey, did a bunch of research and came to the conclusion that self-published authors are selling more books and making more money than those publishing with traditional publishers. It was quickly pointed out that there were some problems with Howey’s work — he sells his books on Amazon, did all his research on Amazon, and (surprise!) came to the conclusion that Amazon is a great place to do your ebooks. Nevertheless, there were really some interesting things that showed up in his research:

    —Indie-published ebooks have generally higher ratings on Amazon than Legacy-published ebooks.

    —Indie-published ebooks generally cost less than Legacy-published ebooks, possibly leading consumers to the sense of getting better value from indies.

    —Indie-published ebooks may be outselling Legacy-published ebooks (this is more inferred than proven).

    —Indie-published ebooks constitute a larger percentage of books sales than we’ve been led to believe in the past (Howey estimates it’s more than 50% of all book sales, though his methodology lacks stringent validity testing).

    —Indie-published authors of ebooks are earning more per book than Legacy-published ebook authors. (Though his argument that Indie-published authors are making more overall is based on very shaky evidence.)

    It’s all fascinating stuff, and I believe his conclusion that publishing’s brightest days are ahead is spot-on. As an agent, I’ve never felt I was one of the people who needed to protect the status quo — the fact is, I believe in authors self-publishing.. Unfortunately, the debate that arose after Howey released his findings was considerably less than insightful. It’s become a fairly

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  • February 20, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: The Cheater’s Way to a Viral Video


    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.

    Last week I tried to tackle the components of a viral video…I say “tried” because that’s exactly what it was. An attempt to wrangle something that is so elusive for so many.

    But I also promised that there were alternatives to the high-budget, high production suggestions that I made. Now these alternatives aren’t magical, and many of you will still walk away feeling like videos are impossible. And that’ fine! Videos are not necessary to sell books. I think Divergent‘s terrible book trailer proved that. But for those of you who are wanting to give it a go, here are some ideas…


    There’s this site called 99designs. You upload your information and needs and then graphic designers from all over compete for your business. They present their designs and then you can actually have friends vote on their favorites. You then pay the winning designer something like $299 and that’s that. You have your design, and that designer has a bit of cash.

    Why can’t we do this with viral videos?!

    In college I was part of a number of “videos.” Someone on campus would have a camera and they’d write a script and we’d go out and film. Once I was even co-writer/co-director/co-actor of a video that we entered into the campus film festival! (We won most creative, by the way). My point is COLLEGE KIDS LOVE CREATING VIDEOS. And they’re pretty good at it. Especially if they’re part of a film program.

    There are two options here…


    Most professors are

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  • February 19, 2014

    What does a writing budget look like?


    A couple of people read my Tuesday 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 $24,000 per year. Skinny, but 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 $2000 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, has a couple of self-published books releasing in April and August, 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

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  • February 18, 2014

    How can an author create a career?


    If you are unaware, there is a ton of discussion going on right now over a report on author earnings done by a self-published author, what he discovered when he did some research, and how authors, agents, and publishers have responded to his findings. I’m in the midst of studying the whole schlamozzle before I respond, but all the discussion basically comes down to this question: How can an author have a career in today’s publishing climate? 

    I have a background in organizational development — that is, the study of how an organization grows and changes over time. My graduate training was in organizational theory, and during my PhD studies at the University of Oregon, I had a Graduate Teaching Fellowship to work at the Career Planning office, helping create tools to assist those graduating, particularly those getting graduate degrees in the arts. During my studies at the U of O (Go Ducks!), the focus eventually was on helping people  in the arts map out a career plan, and that experience allowed me the opportunity to apply the principles of organizational theory to the real-world setting of  trying to make a living via one’s art.  In my job as a literary agent, I’ve found that experience has proven helpful when talking to writers about their careers. You see, my contention is that some people pay lip service to “helping 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 “having a career plan” to some authors is equivalent to “having a book contract.”) 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 she brings to the process? Does she speak? If so, where? How often? To whom? To how

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  • February 14, 2014

    Will the publisher lose money if my advance doesn't earn out?


    I was on a long plane flight last week, and the guy next to me found out I was an agent, told me about the lousy book contract he’d received for his non-fiction book, and asked me, “Does a publisher lose money if a book doesn’t earn out?”

    I get this question a lot, and to answer it I need to beg your forebearance… Let me answer this with hard numbers, so that I can make my case. It will take a couple minutes to run the numbers.

    Remember, every business can lose money. Retail shops, service business, even publishers. I mean, if you own a shoe store, you order in shoes that don’t sell, and you have to drastically reduce prices, you can lose money on each pair of shoes sold. Publishing is no different. The publishing house pays out advances, they pay an editor, hire a cover designer, buy ink and paper, then pay a printer, and cover overhead such as the light bill and the editor’s long distance phone calls. A lot of expenses are involved in every book. I like and respect publishers, and as a longtime agent, I WANT them to make money and stay in business. So I’m just answering a question, not writing a polemic.

    That said, the argument put forth that an unearned advance equals a loss for a publisher just isn’t true. (Or at least not the whole truth.) All you have to do is look at some math…

    Let’s take some big book the publisher is doing with a celebrity. She’s created a $25 hardcover book, and the publisher has paid her a $100,000 advance. The average discount a bookstore gets when ordering a book is roughly 50% — so they’re paying the publisher $12.50 for that book. (In reality, it could be less, and there are a thousand factors determining that amount, but let’s use a conservative 50% for

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  • February 13, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: What Goes In To A Viral Video


    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. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    We’ve spent the past few weeks talking about viral videos. Last week, we looked at the difference between exciting and…not-so-exciting book trailers. This week, we’re unpacking the “How-to” behind a great video. Now, it’s not rocket science, so if you were expecting a magic formula, I’m sorry to disappoint. But at the same time, I think it’s doable. It’s feasible. Viral videos can be a freak phenomenon for sure, but at the same time there are clear ways to increasing your chances of experiencing that very viralness.

    So now that we have a sort of understanding, here’s my list of essentials for a video to go viral:

    • Know what you’re selling. Are you peddling a book? An in-store event? A writers conference? Your editing services? Figure out the driving force behind the video. The more specific, the better.
    • Choose your emotion. The only reason viral videos get shared and watched is because they cause the viewer to FEEL something. Most viral videos cause laughter. Some are suspenseful and put the viewer in a state of unease. Some, like the Budweiser Puppy Love commercial, create a sense of sadness and, later, warm fuzziness. Consider the type of emotional response you want from your viewers, and while you’re doing that…
    • Create your concept. Here’s where your creative juices should come in handy. You’ll want to come up with something unique…something creative that will entertain viewers while highlighting whatever it is you’re selling. Writing a video is no different than writing a novel, really. You’ll want to plan it out
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