• December 30, 2013

    What's the best book you read in 2013?


    As we wrap up 2013, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the top publishing stories of the year, make some predictions for the upcoming year, and get back to answering your questions. But first, I’d like your input on one question:

    What was the single best book you read in 2013?

    It could be fiction or nonfiction. It could be a new book that released this year, or some great book from prior years that you just discovered. But I’d like to know what your best read was in 2013.

    My list of the top ten books read this year:

    Heartbreaker, by Susan Howatch — A fascinating look at the good and evil that resides in us, told through the story of a young woman raising money for a healing center who meets a male prostitute looking for meaning in life. Perhaps the best book I read all year.

    Lost Girls, by Robert Kolker — A gritty, clear-eyed look at four victims of a still-at-large serial killer on Long Island. Great research and writing.

    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer — The moving story of a nine-year-old boy who lost his father on 9/11, and who is determined to find out why and how. I was in awe of the writing.

    The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach — A wonderful novel about friendships, determination, acceptance, love, success, and baseball. (I’m a sucker for a great baseball story, and the story of Henry Skrimshander is one of the best novels I’ve read in years.)

    Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson — I love a book that makes me laugh out loud, not just smile and nod. This book by a longtime blogger will make you snort coffee through your nose. Hilarious.

    Drift, by Rachel Maddow — You won’t agree with all her conclusions, but this story of how US Presidential

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  • December 25, 2013

    A Christmas Emptying (a guest blog)


    I’m sitting on the deck in shorts and a sleeveless blouse on an uncharacteristically warm late- autumn day, while Chevy, poodle-king of the mountain, surveys our three sloping terraces, content to sit quietly until a squirrel skitters by, tempting him to follow. He can’t resist.

    A gust of wind tempts the ash tree to shed her leaves. She can’t resist, and a cascade of sun-shot gold showers around her, a pooling lamé peignoir, a sudden denuding, a complete surrender.

    I’m undone.

    This tree, unlike our umbrageous oaks, whose leaves cling tenaciously, sometimes even after crisping, shriveled on branches, frees her foliage brazenly, willing her leaves to take simultaneous flight. One day, lush leafage shapes her sumptuous silhouette; the next, her bare, angular bones protrude in starkness. She stands unabashedly disrobed. It happens that quickly.

    There is so much I need to shed, so much I long to let go, quickly, without thought, without hesitation, without looking back. And yet, year after year, I struggle to shed my leaves. The longer I think about it, the longer I postpone, the more I cling, the more I’m immobilized, the more I’m overwhelmed. I have too many books, CDs, files, photos, unused make-up, outdated clothes—worse yet, too much fear and frenzy, worry and weariness, doubt and discontent, distraction and disorganization—too much left undone like letters to write, calls to place, visits to make, fences to mend. I make half-hearted attempts, or more promisingly, occasional pulled- up-by-my-bootstraps, full-throttled ones, but somehow, somewhere I ease up, disengage, switch gears, and my cumbersome accoutrements and careworn attitudes proliferate again. I’m back to square one.

    Baring and paring down . . . would that this could be my modus operandi like the autumn ash tree’s. Would that I would allow the fresh wind of God’s Spirit to blow through my life, rattle my bones, release my leaves, and relieve my excess—empty all that is decorative, superfluous, trivial,

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  • December 20, 2013

    On the loss of a mentor and friend


    Yesterday one of my friends and mentors passed away. Jim Reimann was well known in the publishing community, having started a great bookstore in Atlanta, served as President of Family Christian Bookstores during their big growth phase, and having created a couple of bestselling books. Note that I say “created,” because he didn’t really write them — he took some classic old books and updated them into contemporary language. Back in the early 90’s, he took Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, updated the language, then watched it sell hundreds of thousands of copies. In the late 90’s he took L.B. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert and updated it — giving new life to a treasured old devotional text. That book has sold millions, been produced in a couple dozen iterations, and has had a huge reach into the lives of spiritual seekers.

    Jim did some other updates — he recently did contemporary versions of famed American preacher Charles Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening, and a dozen years ago he did a wonderful job of updating Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables — cutting the 70-page description of the Paris sewer system, bringing the dialogue into more contemporary language, and taking a wonderful novel that is often more revered than read and making it accessible to readers everywhere. He had recently gone back to Les Miserables, did a bit of fine tuning, and Jim and I had just signed a deal with Barbour Publishing to produce a new edition of his updated version. That will release next summer, and I’m proud to have been part of the process.

    You may not know how you feel about “updated language” books, and there is certainly a valid argument that books ought to be left alone — that modern readers need to struggle through the wordiness of Dickens or the structure of having no paragraph breaks for an entire page. But

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  • December 19, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: 30 Random Publishing Facts


    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.

    I turn 30 on Sunday (which is bittersweet…bitter because, well, I’m getting older…sweet because whenever people say “but aren’t you too young to be an agent?” I can reply “I’M THIRTY!”), and to commemorate this event, I decided to offer 30 completely and utterly random facts about publishing.

    1. Publishing comes to a screeching halt in the month of December. This year, I’ve noticed a bit more going on than normal, but typically December is a vortex in which manuscripts are either lost or put on hold.

    2. Agents who charge for their services are SCAMMING YOU.

    3. Whenever editors (or agents, for that matter) mention a very specific type of book that they want…chances are, they won’t acquire it even if you show it to them. Situations like that are the result of meetings they’ve been in where they have either brainstormed or been told to look for something. But the mind can so easily change over time, and the desire for a historical  serial killer novel will most likely either fade or they’ll take a look at what that actually looks like and decide they’re going to pass.

    4. Speaking of me being thirty, in NYC, there are a number of twenty-something publishing professionals. Even ones who are building their own lists. So while you may be shocked to see someone “so young” in the business, it’s actually quite common.

    5. HOWEVER, in the CBA (the religious side of publishing) there are far, far fewer twenty-somethings. It’s sad.

    6. Yes, BEA is as crazy as

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  • December 18, 2013



    In lieu of client gifts this season, MacGregor Literary has elected to sponsor a student through a full year of high school in Uganda, Africa, and encourage him or her toward their goal of continuing their education.

    Agent Sandra Bishop, who spearheaded this donation, says, ” I hope you’re all finding opportunities to be blessed, and to bless others this Christmas.”

    The Team at MacGregor Literary wish all of you a Merry Christmas and bountiful New Year!


    If you are interested in learning more about this organization, please visit  www.kuzaprogram.org.

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  • December 16, 2013

    10 Gift Ideas for Writers


    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.

    Ever wondered what to get your critique partners or writer friends/spouses for the holidays? Or maybe you’re at a loss for what to ask for this year? Never fear. I’ve got a drool-worthy list right here. With gifts sure to please you/the daydreaming wordsmiths in your life…regardless of your price range.

    1. Never underestimate a writer’s need for a librarian. When the Internet fails to provide much-needed search results and the writer’s list of historians and experts proves to be unhelpful, the first place many go is straight to the town library. And they wouldn’t have it any other way. It gets lonely, staring at a computer for hours on end. The library gets writers out of the house. We agents believe such behavior should be encouraged as often as possible. That’s why this mug is the perfect reminder that just because you don’t know what the Sami people wore in 1710, doesn’t mean all is lost. Keep calm. Ask a librarian.


    2. If you’ve ever been around your writer friend(s) when they’re in the midst of writer’s block, you know it’s a painful sight. Bags under the eyes. Unkempt hair. Dirty clothing. While their children have gone unfed, their house uncleaned…okay, so in all honesty, the very same thing happens when a writer is under deadline. So all the more reason to give your writer friends these Writer Dice. They not only help with plot formation, but can get stories out of sticky situations. Meaning less time spent slaving away at the keyboard, writing and

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  • December 13, 2013

    An Open Letter to my Fellow Authors (a guest blog from novelist Richard Russo)


    It’s all changing, right before our eyes. Not just publishing, but the writing life itself, our ability to make a living from authorship. Even in the best of times, which these are not, most writers have to supplement their writing incomes by teaching, or throwing up sheet-rock, or cage fighting. It wasn’t always so, but for the last two decades I’ve lived the life most writers dream of: I write novels and stories, as well as the occasional screenplay, and every now and then I hit the road for a week or two and give talks. In short, I’m one of the blessed, and not just in terms of my occupation. My health is good, my children grown, their educations paid for. I’m sixty-four, which sucks, but it also means that nothing that happens in publishing—for good or ill—is going to affect me nearly as much as it affects younger writers, especially those who haven’t made their names yet. Even if the e-price of my next novel is $1.99, I won’t have to go back to cage fighting.
    Still, if it turns out that I’ve enjoyed the best the writing life has to offer, that those who follow, even the most brilliant, will have to settle for less, that won’t make me happy and I suspect it won’t cheer other writers who’ve been as fortunate as I. It’s these writers, in particular, that I’m addressing here. Not everyone believes, as I do, that the writing life is endangered by the downward pressure of e-book pricing, by the relentless, ongoing erosion of copyright protection, by the scorched-earth capitalism of companies like Google and Amazon, by spineless publishers who won’t stand up to them, by the “information wants to be free” crowd who believe that art should be cheap or free and treated as a commodity, by internet search engines who are all too happy to direct people to on-line sites that
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  • December 12, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: 10 Things I’m Tired of Seeing


    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.

    (I’m taking a break from all-things-marketing for the rest of 2013…so if you’re here for posts on platforms and promotions, stay tuned…they’ll come with the new year).

    I did something like this on my Facebook page awhile back, so I figured I’d try it here!

    10 Things I’m Tired of Seeing

    1. Opening scenes that involve the main character (and his village, family, etc.) under sudden attack from the bad guys (within fantasy fiction). I’d say 70% of the fantasy novels I look at start this exact way. The second most common opening scene in fantasy involves a similar attack, except the focus is on a person or group who is trying to rescue a baby.

    2. Books that promise “5 Secrets” or “10 Reasons” but aren’t clear what those 5 or 10 things are within the text (within nonfiction).

    3. Salvation stories (within religious fiction). When it comes to a spiritual arc, this is ALL I SEE. It’s as if interesting plots only happen to characters who aren’t yet totally on board with Christianity. Authors need to push themselves to go deeper with their spiritual threads. There is an entire life AFTER one’s conversion. Show me that.

    4. Love that is really just lust (within romance fiction). I see it all the time and I’m sick of it. It’s like one moment the characters are casually talking, the next they’re fantasizing about one another’s bodies while claiming to be entirely smitten. Come on. You want me to believe that they’re meant to be? Have them fall in

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  • December 11, 2013

    If writing is a business, why not? (a guest blog)


    When my new book, Grace’s Pictures, released, I knew I needed to do all I could to promote it. But at the time I faced a challenging rewrite of my next novel, a long planned for overseas trip, and my son’s wedding. The solution seemed to be finding someone to help, but I couldn’t afford to pay for an assistant.

     The answer came when I realized that my writing was indeed a business and I needed to think of it that way. Corporations employ interns not only to provide young people an experience that will help them when they enter the job market, but also to get things done. I couldn’t pay someone to help me, not with money. But I did have something to offer. Since I’ve learned some things along my writing journey, I could pass some knowledge on to a student who was considering entering the publishing field.

     I had no idea how to do this. I had no internship myself when I was in college. But I did not let that stop me. I decided to go out on a limb and ask questions. Since there is a private liberal college not too far away, I Googled and discovered they have a wonderful Creative Arts program. I emailed the professor in charge and to my surprise she emailed right back and said she had a student in mind who would be perfect.

    Like most things that sound too good to be true, it turned out not to be that simple. I had to follow up twice to find out this student had changed her mind. The professor went back to the drawing board, but also suggested I check with a larger university. I did so, and they advertised for me, but my intern ended up coming from the smaller college. She was a freshman with little understanding of the publishing world, but she was willing

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