• November 22, 2013




    President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, she’s worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), business manager, drama director and writer. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). A three-time Genesis finalist, Ane is a published playwright and columnist. She resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband and two very large dogs, and has just returned from the ACFW conference.

    Finding Your Voice

    Fiction writers are told to find their voice. Well, what is it, and for that matter, how do you find it?

    I mastered the mechanics of good writing by learning and following the guidelines or … stay with me here … the rules. It’s kind of like staying between the lines in a coloring book before taking on a blank sheet of art paper. Then, I began to understand when and how to break those rules to turn my manuscript into a symphony of words.

    About that same time, I started a new series, and when I sent my critique partners the first chapter, they told me I’d found my voice. Cool. I didn’t know I’d lost it. I mean, I didn’t have laryngitis or even a sore throat.

    Okay, I’m being silly and probably not very funny, so you can stop rolling your eyes. In truth, I’d been working on voice. I read Les Edgerton’s book Finding Your Voice. I highly recommend it if you’re still looking for yours.

    In Edgerton’s book, he said go back and look at letters you’d written when you were young or at least before you began to write. There was your voice.

    As I thought about that, I remembered how our friends always

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  • November 21, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Why I hate NaNoWriMo


    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).

    It never fails. Each November 1, my Facebook news feed is full of bright-eyed, hopeful, excited writers, eager to embark on their quest to write 50,000 words in 30 days. The camaraderie is awesome. The energy, infectious. And each year there is a teeny tiny part of me that wonders if I sign up, too.

    Then, week one ends. The energy, though still pulsing, is a tad weaker. The number of people talking about their goals, less frequent. Then comes the first admittance of failure:

    “Stuff came up with the family…can’t finish NaNo this year. :(”

    Not a big deal. Those still in the trenches assure that person that there was nothing they could have done to change their situation and that NEXT YEAR it will be different.

    But then week two hits. And week three. And you get to the 21st of the month (the day I’m writing this post), and it’s as if NaNoWriMo isn’t even taking place. Of my thirty-plus Facebook friends who had advertised their participatin in NaNo, a small handful remain. And even then, their updates are sparse, full of stress. Full of doubt. They’ve been beaten down and they don’t know how they’ll pull through.

    This is why I hate NaNoWriMo. It sets writers up to fail.

    As if writers need yet another reason to question their craft. To doubt whether they’re cut out for

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  • November 20, 2013

    Redesigning My Website – One Author's Experience (a guest blog)


    When I mentioned to Chip that I recently had my website redesigned and sent him the link to check it out, he asked me to write a blog post and share my experience with you.

    To give you an idea of where my site was when I began my redesign process with Aaron Robbins, I need to share a little about my website history. I began blogging in 2008, on a free Blogger blog at the URL mycup2yours.com. The platform served my purposes well (writing parenting posts geared toward moms) and I was happy with the functionality and design.

    Over the next few years, as my blog began to grow and my passion for writing in the parenting genre became more serious, I changed the appearance of my site, added more selections to my navigation bar and more widgets to my sidebar. I admit, at the time, I didn’t really have a long-term vision for my site. (I was just tweaking it here and there.) I also bought the domain for my name and created my own website through WebSiteTonight for gennyheikka.com. While I wrote about parenting regularly on mycup2yours.com, this second URL was where I had my writing bio and information about the children’s books I had written.

    Managing two sites turned out to be time consuming, so a little while later, I made a major change, switching from mycup2yours.com on Blogger to gennyheikka.com on WordPress, combining the two. So not only did I switch blogging platforms, I changed URLS and  years of blog posts at mycup2yours transitioned to gennyheikka.com.

    It was a hard decision and one that came with complications in terms of SEO, redirects, and lost subscribers, but it was the right thing to do from a branding perspective. I wanted one place that readers could find me and all my work, rather than going to one site for my blog and another to find

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  • November 18, 2013

    Treating your writing as a business


    I’ve been exploring the notion of making a living in the new publishing economy, and I want to make sure writers understand the big picture… You’ve got to treat your writing as a business. 

    Oh, sure, some writers will insist on treating their writing as an art, which is fine, and for some writers no doubt more appropriate. I represent some authors who don’t really see themselves as business people, but as artists, creating words that share their stories. I totally understand and respect that perspective, since some writers are, in fact, artists with words. But if it’s important to you that you generate a full-time income through your writing, and you’re pondering how to create a number of writing projects that will improve your bottom line, then you need to begin to see your writing as a business. In essence, your words are a service or product — they have value, and others need to pay you in exchange for them. 

    Determining the value of your words is tough at first, which is why I’ve encouraged authors to begin by setting a small monthly financial goal, then building up the number as you find success. If you know you need to earn, say, $2500 per month, then it’s clear the goal is about $500 per week (which sounds small when you put it that way, doesn’t it?). Thinking in that manner moves writing into more of a business model, since it reduces your work to numbers: “I need to make $500 from my writing this week.” You then begin to map out which projects you can do that will generate the cash flow you need.

    As I’ve said a number of times on this blog, today is a great time to be a writer. There are more readers and more opportunities than ever before, so there’s a market for people who can create good content. You’ll still hear people

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  • November 16, 2013

    On Snippet, PW, and a good friend


    SNIPPET: I had several people email me to ask why we had the blog post about Snippet. The fact is, I simply love the tool. It’s easy to use (an author simply drops in short chapters or essays), it’s interactive (so it’s very much like an enhanced ebook), and it’s both word-based and visual. I don’t have any sort of stake in the company — I just like the results.

    In my view, there are two ways an author could use Snippet. First, he or she could drop in some text, insert videos or photos or graphics, and in a very short time create a lovely book that would sell for $3.99 and be WAY more attractive than most short-form ebooks. Second, a nonfiction author could use it to create a shorter version of his or her book — offering some of the content, with a couple videos or interviews as highlights, and simply give it away as a marketing piece to promote the full-length book.  Besides, it’s free. This is the sort of tool that we see sometimes as writers and realize it has huge potential. Like I said– I love it, and I’m happy to have the folks using it come on and share their story. (And if you have a tool like this that can help writers, I’d love to hear about it.)

    PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: I’m often asked what the best resource is for figuring out trends, or hearing what’s going on in the industry, or looking for up-and-coming ideas. In my view, the answer is easy: Publisher’s Weekly. Sure, it’s expensive (I think an annual subscription is $168), but it’s probably the one place I go where I get the most information on our industry. (I also like the online daily digest at Publishers Marketplace a lot.)

    This week PW highlights what they consider the best books of 2013, and I noticed they included Lost Girls

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  • November 15, 2013

    What does it mean to "make a living" at writing?


    I’ve been talking about authors trying to make a living at writing recently, and a couple people have written to ask me, “When can I know I’m actually making a living with my words?”

    To me, the answer is personal. One author may feel she is making a living when she’s earning $1500 per month; another may feel she isn’t really making a living until she’s making $3000 per month. I think you have to pick an amount based on your own situation. What are your household income needs? What’s reasonable for you to earn over the course of a year? How much time do you have to devote to writing?

    When I started free-lancing, I was working other jobs (I hosted a radio show called “On the Record with Dr Chip MacGregor,” and taught some classes). At first my writing income was slim, but over time I had more writing and editing projects coming in, and I saw my monthly income from writing move from $100 to $300 to $500 to $1000 per month. I had a big jump from $1000 to $1500, then to $1800 per month. When I began making an average of $2000 per month, I realized I could make more money if I gave up my part-time jobs and just focused on the writing and editorial work. Granted, this was a number of years ago, but I had three kids and a mortgage payment, and making more than $2000 each month was enough to live on.

    So, as you look at your situation, how much do you need to make? You may choose to set a small goal from your writing at first, then grow it over time as your writing career moves forward. You have to begin to see “words” as “money” — that is, your writing having value. One of the things you’ll discover is that when you look at words that way,

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  • November 14, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Tapping into Small Reader Demographics


    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.

    The typical reader is a middle-aged, white female. We’ll call her Sally.

    A vast majority of fiction is created with Sally in mind. Take the entire romance genre, for example (barring, of course, African American, multi-cultural, and some LGBT romances). Not to mention the mystery genre. The women’s fiction genre. The erotica genre. A vast majority of the historical genre and even a chunk of the YA genre are both created and marketed with her in mind.

    It isn’t until we get to that historical genre, and then suspense, and then thrillers, and then horror and speculative fiction that we start to see books that are marketed to Sally, as well as … Sally’s husband. We’ll call him Gunther.

    I’m no mathmetician, but I know this…a whole freaking lot of the fiction books produced are produced with Sally in mind. And of the books not created with Sally in mind, a super crazy majority of those are intended for Gunther.

    So where does that leave the author who writes for a narrow demographic?

    My honest opinion? It’s almost easier to tap into a narrow demographic than it is to tap into a broad one. Think about it like this…

    A billion (hyperbole) books come out every year with Sally in mind. I mean granted, there are a ton of Sallys in the world, so it makes sense there are lots of books to choose from. BUT each Sally still needs to make a decision to read one book at a time. And when there are a billion books

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  • November 13, 2013

    Snippet's Writer Dashboard Launches Today (a guest blog)


    snippet screenshot 1I’m excited to be able to share with you that Snippet–a brand new publishing and reading app–is moving their Writer Dashboard from private beta to open beta today.

    As an author, it’s been amazing to be involved with Snippet. (If you missed my post a couple months ago about how Chip became my agent and how my upcoming book became a Snippet, you can catch up on that here.)

    Even though Snippet has already gained thousands of readers, it’s still new, so I’ve included some information below about my own experience and about Snippet in general, to answer some questions you might have.

    You can request access to their Writer Dashboard starting today, and begin creating your own Snippet at any time!

    What does Snippet mean for writers?

    Snippet gives writers a brand new publishing path that allows you to publish and monetize quickly and easily, but in a high quality, beautiful format. (Published Snippets are gorgeous, which was a really important factor for me as an author.)

    How does it work?

    With the move of Snippet’s Writer Dashboard to open beta, you can sign up to get access and begin creating your Snippet at any time. Each chapter is 1,000 words or less, but you as the author decide how many chapters your Snippet will have.  You also have the option of enriching your text with “discoverables” like video, audio, and pictures. (And just a note here: don’t let this part intimidate you; for one of my videos, I simply used my iPad to record myself, and for all of my audio, I used my phone. They turned out great, and it truly enriches the reading experience.) Creating and publishing a Snippet is free, and your published Snippet will be available for download from $ .99 – $4.99. As the author, you choose the price.

    What are some ways writers can use Snippet?

    1. As a companion

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  • November 12, 2013

    Making a Living at Writing: Two Types of Writers (a repeat)


    Last month I blogged about the two types of writers. Normally I try not to repeat myself much, but since we’re now talking about making a living at writing, I’m going to repeat much of what I said in a blog post last month. (Regular readers of this blog will forgive me the repetition.) When you look at writers who are making a living at their writing, you find they come in two basic types:

    TYPE 1 is the writer who writes all over the map. There are plenty of examples of this in publishing – writers who do kids books, teen books, women’s fiction, romance, thrillers, study guides, and the occasional novella. They publish with multiple publishers, self-publish some titles, do some work-for-hire or collaborative writing, and cobble together a living. This author has good years and bad, makes decent money, is certainly out there a lot. On the nonfiction side, you find this much more with journalistic types — they’re taking on a variety of projects in order to make a living.

    TYPE 2 is the writer who figures out what she wants to write, then writes it. She focuses on a genre, figures out her voice, and writes to that audience. An example of this is Terry Blackstock (there are plenty of others). Terry is writing suspense novels, everybody recognizes her voice, and she’s focused on that one audience. Another is an author I represent, Lisa Samson. Lisa writes literary fiction, knows who she is and what her style is, and focuses on it.

    I’ll tell you right now that TYPE 1 writers rarely hit it big. She might make a good living, but it’s tough to really hit the big time when you move around in categories. You know that feeling of being overwhelmed because you’re doing six books in four different genres? Well, that’s the sort of life a TYPE 1 author is going to

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  • November 11, 2013

    The (new) MacGregor Theory of Making a Living


    A few years ago, I created a talk about how an author can make a living with his or her writing. I called it “The MacGregor Theory” (with apologies to the MacGregor who came up with all the Theory X and Theory Y stuff), and over the years it’s been picked up and discussed by all sorts of writers and editors  in the blogosphere. But now, with the changes we’ve seen in the world of publishing, it’s time I go back and revise my theory of making a living. So if you’ll indulge me…

    I have five rules for authors who want to make a full time living at writing:

    1. You need to have four-to-six books earning you a royalty. In other words, you’ve done books in the past, you’ve had some earn out, and you currently have some books that are making you a passive income.

    2. You need to have 18 months to 2 years of contracts. This is much harder to do in today’s publishing economy, but if you’re going to do this full time, you probably need to know clearly what you’re going to be writing for the next year or two. If you have your calendar filled up for the next 18 months with projects that are contracted, you’re at least afforded the clarity that comes from knowing what you’ll be working on.

    3. You need to be self-publishing. These days, most successful authors have generated some sort of income by self-publishing books, novels, novellas, articles, and/or short stories. This is a new piece of the plan (well… not to those of us who started out in this business writing magazine articles, but new to everyone else), and fairly essential to make enough money to live on. The days of surviving on book advances are over, for all but the A-list authors who are getting the mega deals. In today’s market you need to

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