• October 2, 2013

    Do I need to copyright my work?


    The US has great copyright laws. The fact is, if you wrote it, and you can prove you wrote it, our laws already protect your work. That means if you have written words, music, dance steps, art, a screenplay, a speech, or even an architectural drawing, you own it and your rights are protected from the very moment you created it. Pretty cool, no?

    That said, copyright law can be both difficult and confusing, even for attorneys and agents who work with intellectual property all the time. Fortunately, the web has made researching and understanding the copyright and fair use issues much easier. In a recent issue of Publishers Weekly, Betsy Kelly Sargent, founder and CEO of BookWorks, noted that, regardless of the tangible benefits of US Copyright law, she still encourages self-publishing authors to register their works. (That’s not something I do — I believe the strength of the copyright law is adequate to protect self-published authors in most situations. However, I’m not an attorney, and I’m not offering a legal opinion — just offering what I’ve found to be true in publishing these past couple of decades.)

    Still, since I frequently get this question, I wanted to show what Ms Sargent offered as the process for self-published authors to get their own copyright. (This is from the August 26, 2013, edition of Publishers Weekly, page 6, Understanding Copyright: What Every Indie Author Needs to Know, and was written by Betsy Kelly Sargent.) She suggests:

    Go to: www.copyright.gov

    ● Create a username and password;

    ● Follow the instructions for registering your work-in-progress;

    ● Get your pre-registration claim number by paying the $115; then, when you have your e-book in its final digital form, you can complete your copyright registration by going to: www.copyright.gov/eco

    ● Log in with your username and password;

    ● Fill in the required information and include your pre-registration number;

    ● Upload your e-book;

    ● Pay an

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  • October 1, 2013

    What do I need to know about memoir?


    I’ve had several people ask me about memoir lately. It’s been a growth category lately in publishing, and that means we’re going to see more memoir proposals from writers. In reviewing what we’ve been seeing, could I offer three general tips to keep in mind about the genre?

    First,understand the difference between memoir and autobiography and self-help or personal story. An autobiography is simply the review of one’s life — the events the happened, in order, covering the who, where, when, and what. In other words, an autobiography is history. A memoir, on the other hand, isn’t bound by those restrictions at all. The focus is on remembered events of the author, so it can cover the big days, skip most of the other days, and focus on lessons and themes and memories. Sometimes an author will simply tell his or her personal story, in order to create a book that attempts to help readers live more successfully in a particular area (finances, health, parenting, spirituality, etc). That’s not a memoir, but a self-help book using the author’s personal story as a backdrop on which to hang the lessons. Autobiography is out. Personal stories, for the most part, are out. Memoir is in.

    Second, don’t assume because something interesting happened to you, it will be of interest to others. often get people sending me a fascinating personal story — “THIS happened to me, and everybody tells me I should write a book about it!” My response is usually: “yaaaaaawn.” Yes, interesting things still happen. Yes, I think people can change. Yes, I believe God is alive and doing great things. Yes, miracles can occur. And yes, lives get changed in incredible ways, and the re-telling of that can be valuable (just like we re-tell our personal stories to our kids, and just like the ancient tradition of having people share testimonies in church) .But the fact that

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  • September 30, 2013

    Finding Your Voice (a guest blog)


    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 told me they loved my Christmas letters. Mine were the ones they actually read and looked forward to. If I was late with it I received a few “Where is it?” emails. Instead of a travelogue or a report on the kiddos’ doings, I made up stories about the major events of the past year, poking fun at us and liberally adding embellishments.

    I pulled out those past Christmas letters and studied them. I noticed the cadence, the style, and the sound of them. That’s what I wanted in my fiction. I then tried a new game of “Name that Author.”

    First, I went to a multi-author blog—it doesn’t

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  • September 26, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Answering Your Marketing Questions


    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.

    Awhile back, I asked for some topic suggestions. I received a range of questions and ideas, and so I’m going to address some of the smaller (but still important!) questions here…and keep in mind that Thursdays with Amanda is all about marketing and platform. So the questions that fell outside of that range probably won’t get answered here.


    1. Lisa wrote “Sometimes, I just feel so burnt out of the social media, platform building. I always love hearing tips about having a healthy balance.”

    ANSWER: It’s important to note that there is not one-size-fits-all approach here. Some get lost in the social media abyss while others are very good about being intentional with their time. So please understand that what works for you may not work for others and vice versa. With that being said, here’s a BIG soapbox of mine…

    I’ve had a few authors this year complain that there isn’t time for marketing. These are authors who 1) do not maintain any sort of real world job, and 2) do not have kids in the house that need supervision. So you can imagine I have little pity for them, considering I work with an author who is a single parent of FIVE as well as a full-time minister.

    So a general rule that I throw out there is to treat writing and marketing as equals. One hour of writing for every hour of marketing. If you are afraid that this rule will leave you with barely any writing time, then it may be time to cut

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  • September 24, 2013

    Yes, You Need an Agent



    We’re living in a new publishing economy.  Over the past five to ten years, nearly everything about the publishing industry has changed significantly. The way information is gathered, tracked, and shared has changed. We now live with digital royalty reports and catalogs. There are fewer bookstores, fewer editors working for publishers, yet more books being published than ever before. There’s less editing, smaller advances, and a bunch of new, more nimble start-up companies that are gaining a toehold in the market. The move from brick-and-mortar stores to an online experience is completely different – there are more titles than ever, and I can get anything delivered quickly, but the online shopping experience isn’t nearly as fulfilling as wandering through the aisles of a bookstore, exploring unknown authors and discovering hidden treasures.

    Publishers no longer worry about ink/paper/binding costs, or transportation & warehousing expenditures, so their margins have grown. At the same time, while authors are being offered greater royalties for digital books, their per-book earnings are down. And while the growth of the web has offered those authors more opportunity to market their titles to readers, with the opportunity has come responsibility – to the extent that many writers feel they are full-time sales people and only part-time writers.

    But the biggest change of all, of course, is that Amazon and Smashwords allows for ANYONE to claim to be an author. Just write some words, post it on Amazon, and – voila! You’re an author. It’s led to what I call “Publishing as Amway.” Those of you who lived through the 80’s will remember the Amway revolution… You were told all you had to do was sign up, buy some soap products, and start signing up your friends to do the same. They’d sign up their friends, who would in turn sign up their friends, until, through the miracle of multiplication, you’d have this awesome downline –

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  • September 23, 2013

    'Novel Crossing' One Year Later: A Marketing Perspective


    Today we’re featuring a guest blog from Amy Haddock, Senior Marketing Manager at Waterbrook Multnomah, a division of Penguin Random House. Amy helped create the popular “Novel Crossing” website for inspirational fiction readers…

    Writing a book is one thing. Getting that book discovered by readers is a whole other thing, right? It doesn’t take long to see that marketing a book can be an exhausting labor of love. As a marketer myself, I understand completely. For me, the goal is always to find readers, connect them with new books that they would like, and to get them to share it with their friends. As simple as that sounds, we all know that to get to this end result requires hours and hours of work, careful educated guesswork, detailed information about these consumers, a collaborative partnership between publishing house and author, and a way to target these readers as a group. That’s why I’m excited to tell you about Novel Crossing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

    The first thing I should probably tell you: I love books. I’m enamored with reading. I have whole bookcases full of titles from decades past that show just how long I’ve had my nose perpetually in a book, but more than that, I love Christian fiction. I grew up on Janette Oke, Gilbert Morris, and Robin Jones Gunn—reading that my Mom deemed “safe” from her own bookshelves—and during countless moves from city to city during my formative years, these books were my constant companions.

    I’ll admit, I struggled during my college years to retain my love for reading. I became a “skimmer” extraordinaire to make it through the stacks of articles and textbooks that professors gleefully assigned. Looking back, I realize they were just doing their job but at the time it was all I could do to stuff enough knowledge into my brain to pass my courses, let alone pick up a read-for-fun

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  • September 20, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: How to Throw a Book Launch Party


    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.

    Well, it’s not Thursday…it’s Friday, but for the sake of Brand you’ll have to suffer through my wrongly-titled post.

    We’re all back from ACFW, which proved to be a bunch of fun, as always, but also quite interesting in terms of industry stuff. But something happened there that rarely ever happens at any conference…ever.

    A literary agency threw a launch party.

    You may have heard/read me talk about Playlist Fiction. In thinking about how to help the authors create awareness and buzz we considered what most publishers/authors consider. We considered running an ad. But let’s face it:

    1. Ads are expensive

    2. Ads get buried by other ads

    3. Ads are forgetful

    So when Chip asked me what my ideal method of creating buzz at ACFW would be, I said a party! Which of course meant it became my responsibility, but I took it on happily.

    Here’s how I did it…

    • We got some big names to agree to attend, and we asked them to read excerpts from the books our authors did
    • We created invites (we had a Facebook event page, a physical paper invite, and we hit up the big My Book Therapy e-blast as well as a few blogs)
    • We secured a local venue (Buca di Beppo) and promised free dessert (I mean hello! ACFW is 90% women. There was no way we could lose here)
    • We got the go-ahead from the conference directors and made sure that our time slot wouldn’t interfere with ANYTHING
    • We unashamedly mentioned the party during the agent panel
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  • September 19, 2013

    More Words of Wisdom from Joyce Magnin



    Below is the second half of the text from a speech given by the well known novelist Joyce Magnin. Part I ran on September 19th.



    I soon became enamored with the words of Emily Dickinson and to this day I still am often awestruck with the power she could convey in so few well-chosen words. Her words, although I most of the time didn’t get what she was saying, pierced me and helped me to transcend my life. I learned to dwell in Possibility, as she called it and to concern myself with Circumference.

    Circumference, a powerful word she used often, a double metaphor that is both an extension, think of the circumference of the earth and a limit, think of the sand on the shoreline.

    Emily Dickinson used the word to contain some things that transcended space and time like ecstasy, and grief and I believe helped her understand God, and to touch the sublime.

    Her words had the power to stun me, amuse me, and capture a feeling I couldn’t quite explain. Emily taught me that

    Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul,
    And sings the tune without the words,
    And never stops at all,

    And sweetest in the gale is heard;
    And sore must be the storm
    That could abash the little bird
    That kept so many warm.

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land
    And on the strangest sea;
    Yet, never, in extremity,
    It asked a crumb of me.

    Hope. Emily Dickinson’s words, written long before I was born instructed me and healed me. This is the power of words.

    And then I began to write, learning the difference between the spoken and the written word, I chose the written word.

    Spoken words for me were hurtful most of the time, silly and uncertain coming from mouths that I


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  • September 18, 2013




    Below is the text from a speech given by the well known novelist Joyce Magnin.


    As I thought about this topic my natural inclination was to go back through my notes or talks and workshops and rehash some things that I have already taught, I thought about looking for particularly snappy passages from literature, to find wisdom in someone else’s words, wisdom and ideas that I believed as well. But as I did this I became more and more uneasy and threw out my new notes, tore pages off my yellow legal pad like they were Autumn leaves and let them rest on the floor until I had so many discarded pages I almost felt I couldn’t do this.

    But then in a flash I decided to not tell you about the power of words in the same old way.

    We all know this. We all know that words can heal or harm or instruct or entertain and make us laugh. No one will dispute that, and I didn’t think it would be telling you anything you didn’t already know.

    So in keeping with what we began last night as I shared my personal writing journey and some thoughts on what it means to become a writer I thought it more appropriate to share with you what the power of words in my life

    . . .  was . . .  is  . . . and will be because as  writers we all understand that the one common aim of our writings is to say something that will resonate with others, that our stories will matter in what Carl Jung called the collective consciousness, or the Greater Narrative. That we have something to say.

    And I would suggest that this is true not just for the writer but is apropos for all our gifts. Don’t we all want to

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  • September 16, 2013

    Confessions of a Conference Junkie



    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.

    Confessions of a Conference Junkie

    I’m Ane Mulligan, and I’m a conference junkie. I’ve attended thirteen writing conferences since 2004 and can’t wait to get to number fourteen.

    Non-writers look aghast when they hear my conference tally and ask, “Didn’t the first one take?”

    They don’t understand. No one but another conferenceholic would. After all, who gets a writer better than another writer? Who else hears voices in their head and has imaginary friends? Okay, yeah, the inmates of some hospitals and little kids — but so do fiction writers. And we fiction writers need each other.

    Besides the camaraderie, I always come away from every conference with a golden nugget —something that takes my writing to the next level.

    So what are golden nuggets? I’m glad you asked. Assuming you’ve applied what you learned from previous conferences, you may find you’re getting some repeat information when you attend conferences. That’s good confirmation that you’re growing as a writer.

    Then right in the middle of a workshop, you get a zinger. One piece of information, one inside secret to great writing that will make your manuscript stand out from the slush pile. That, my friends, is a golden nugget. It can be a small or large writing tip or insight, but it is

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