• September 11, 2013

    Maegan Beaumont on her novel, Carved in Darkness


    GUEST WRITER MAEGAN BEAUMONT is the author of CARVED IN DARKNESS, the first book in the Sabrina Vaughn series (Available through Midnight Ink, spring 2013). A native Phoenician, Maegan’s stories are meant to make you wonder what the guy standing in front of you in the Starbucks line has locked in his basement, and feel a strong desire to sleep with the light on. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband, Joe, and their four children, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one true love, Jade.


    My writing career did not start out well. When I was 7, I entered a young authors’ contest through my 2nd grade class. I lost. When I was 12, I turned in a short story as a class room assignment. Instead of the A I was hoping for, I earned weekly sessions with the school psychologist. True story. When I was 15 I entered a short story contest held by Seventeen Magazine. I lost that one too… bat at least no one tried to stick me in therapy.

    These three events taught me a few things:

    1. 1) I can’t write.
    2. 2) What I write scares people.
    3. 3) The way I see the world isn’t normal.
    4. 4) Failure sucks.

    As I got older, I learned there was nothing in this world I hated and feared more than failure. It became a living, breathing thing that I actively avoided, like that mean kid in school who pushed you in the mud on picture day and “borrowed” your milk money.


    I never took a creative writing class in high school. I never allowed my friends and family to read what I wrote (for fear of failure… and also a 72-hour bed hold at the county annex).  I never developed what I can now

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  • September 10, 2013

    How To Make Google Work for Your Blog



    Lucy Morgan-Jones is a stay-at-home mum to four precocious children by day and a snoop by night, stalking interesting characters through historical Colorado and writing about their exploits. 

    She enjoys meeting new people from all over the world and learning about the craft of writing. When she can be separated from her laptop, she is a professional time waster on Facebook, a slave to the towering stack of books on her bedside table, and a bottler, preserving fruit the old fashioned way so she can swap recipes and tips with her characters. 

    Her home is in country Victoria, Australia, and she is a member of  Writers Downunder, ACFW, and Romance Writers of America.

    How To Make Google Work for Your Blog 

    Social media, platform, blogs, build an online presence, etc. We’ve been told we need to do this as part of developing a successful writing career. Yet, how can we stand out in a busy blogging world with a million other voices all competing for attention?

    One way is by using tools that are already at our disposal. Search engines…

    Google has 620 million visitors a day, making 4.7 billion searches combined. That’s a lot of traffic! That’s a lot of people searching for answers. Which got me thinking that famous writing question: What if?

    What if I wrote a blog post on spec to a popular Google search? What if I researched what questions are out there, and answered them with a hefty flavor of grace? Yes, with the aim of increasing traffic to my blog, but also to provide answers to a world that is getting advice from some dodgy sources.

    Some tools to help:

    Google Trends: A quick look at the Google searches that are getting the most traffic overall (updated hourly).

    Google Insights: looks at search volume over specific geographical regions, time frames, and subject categories. Use this to

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  • September 5, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: YOU’RE INVITED!



    Are you attending ACFW this year? Or maybe you’ll be in the Indianapolis area? If so, you’re invited to a party!


    Friday, September 13 from 9:30pm-11pm

    Buca di Beppo, Indianapolis (35 North Illinois Street – one block from the Hyatt Regency Hotel)

    With special appearances by TOSCA LEE & SUSAN MAY WARREN!


    Come on out to mingle with other YA readers and writers, learn about Playlist Fiction, participate in giveaways, eat free dessert, and more!

    Please RSVP on our official event page.


    And check out our invite! (NOTE: the free ebook promotion will run September 13-17)


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  • September 3, 2013

    What does an unpublished writer do with her completed manuscript?


    Someone wrote to ask, “If a writer has never published before, but has a completed novel manuscript ready to go, what would you recommend he/she do with it?” 
    I like this question, since it’s a situation I see frequently. If an author has a manuscript done, I’d encourage him or her to spend some time creating a few other pieces: a one or two page synopsis, a quick overview, a one sentence hook, a good list of three or four comparable titles to give the novel context, and a one-page bio that focuses on platform. All of those things are going to be important when you get to the important stage of talking to an agent or editor.
    Next, I’d probably say, “The first draft of any novel is usually bad.” So I’d encourage the author to use the next couple months to polish it. Take it to a critique group. Have writer friends read and comment. Get it in front of an editor. Pay for a professional critique, if that’s possible. Not every bit of advice you get will be great (or even correct), but listening to the wisdom of others, particularly those who are farther down the path, can help you improve your book. Take your time to improve it, rather than typing the last word and sending it off. Make it as sharp as possible, since that’s the best way to get it published.
    Then I’d say to the author, “Check out ALL your options.” Should they introduce themselves to agents? Sure. Should they try to get it in front of some editors at a writing conference? Of course. Should they consider small presses? By all means. Should they explore self-publishing? Yes. The world of publishing has changed completed over the past five years, so start looking at the various options you have as a novelist. But don’t jump on the first opportunity that presents itself. Take
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  • August 29, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Brainstorming Street Team Strategies


    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.

    Last week, I talked about the importance of brainstorming, and as promised, I’m going to go through a brainstorming exercise here on this blog so that you can see the train of thought…the bad ideas, the good ideas, the weird ideas.

    Here are the rules:

    I am going to pretend that I wrote one of my favorite books of all time, The Great Gatsby. I’m using this, assuming that most of you have either read it or seen one of the many movie adaptations. This way, we can hopefully all be on the same page with understanding the book’s content.

    So, I’m pretending that I wrote this book and that I need to come up with ideas that will put my Street Team to work.

    I will spend 20 minutes, focusing on idea-generating.

    No idea is a bad idea.

    If an idea comes, coupled with a notion of how that idea would benefit my Street Team, I’ll jot all of it down. But if it doesn’t–if I get an idea but I’m not quite sure what the benefit for the Street Team would be–I’m not going to worry about it. I can figure that out later.

    Okay, so before the twenty minutes starts, I need to know a few things (and if you plan on attending my ACFW session on Marketing Plans, you’ll get this much more in depth!):

    TItle: The Great Gatsby

    Genre: Literary

    Themes: Jazz, 20s, Flappers, New York Wealth, Agnosticism, socio-economic classes, infidelity, romance, Plaza Hotel … (this should be enough for me to work

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  • August 28, 2013

    An Orkan becomes a Human


    A guest post from novelist Ann Tatlock

    “Jesus told his disciples a story….” Luke 18:1, NLT


    Remember the Mork Report? In the 70s sit-com “Mork and Mindy,” Robin Williams played the alien Mork from Ork who was sent to earth to study human behavior. At the end of each episode, he reported his findings to Orson, his Orkan boss. Mork often seemed baffled by this strange species called humankind, yet at the same time, he longed to be like them.

    I myself am baffled by at least one segment of the human race—those who don’t read novels, claiming fictional stories to be entertainment at best, a waste of time at worst.

    A waste of time?

    How do we begin to learn as very young children? Most often through stories. What inspires our play and lays the foundation for the games that challenge us and help us grow? Stories. What carries us off to places and times that we otherwise wouldn’t experience and, in so doing, makes them a very real part of our lives? Stories. It’s only natural that this should be so. We were created for stories.

    Jesus knew this, for he was himself a storyteller. Not that what he said wasn’t true, but he often wrapped the truth in fictional packages called parables. By doing so, he gained his listeners’ attention, captured their imagination and gave them images they could understand and hold onto. Novelists today are simply doing as Jesus did, offering truths within the context of fictional narratives.

    Stories affect us profoundly. Stories have the power to change minds, change hearts, change lives. That’s because, as C.S. Lewis put it, stories have the ability to “baptize the imagination.”

    And Lewis should know. He was an atheist until he read Phantastes by George MacDonald. Upon reading this story, Lewis claims his imagination was in a certain sense baptized because his mind was first opened to the possibility

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  • August 27, 2013

    What's the latest in the world of publishing?


    Keeping up on some of the latests news for authors…
    I loved this article on Harvard Business Review — “Should You Write a Book”  http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/06/think_you_want_to_write_a_book.html
    And this is wonderful — DBW on “The Top Ten Book Recommendation Platforms”
    And, just to make sure you’re paying attention, have a look at the Supreme Court decision on US copyrights: http://www.courtneymilan.com/ramblings/2013/03/19/kirtsaeng-v-john-wiley-sons-and-the-death-of-geographic-rights-in-fiction__,_._,___
    Some great words about fabulous writer Mark Bertrand and his books: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/08/16/murder-escapes-the-vicarage/
    An interesting take from last year on “What agents are facing” that is worth a read: http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2012/06/24/agents-–-who’d-have-’em/
    And in case you missed this bit of news from last year — about an agent who rejected someone: http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-jc-literary-agent-assault-twitter-20120914,0,7168502.story
    By the way, if you’re a fan of noir fiction, the second issue of Grift is now live. You can find it here:
    And some important bits of business for MacGregor Literary:
    –First, we had an author graduate with her PhD: Congrats Sandi Glahn!  Check this out: www.aspire2.blogspot.com
    –Second, novelist Mindy Clark won the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award  a couple months ago – read about it here:
    –Third, nonfiction writers Sheila Wray Gregoire of Belleville, Ont. won the $5000 Grace Irwin Prize for the top religious book in Canada with her The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, published by Zondervan.
    –Fourth, we’ve had a number of books on the various bestseller lists, including Rachel Hauck’s The Wedding Dress hit #1 on Kindle.
    –Fifth, Amanda Luedeke’s great book about marketing on social media, The Extroverted Writer, continues to sell and get wonderful things said about it. If you haven’t seen it on Amazon yet, have a look.
    –And last, two books that Marie Prys and I wrote, The Prayers of the Presidents and The Faith of the First Ladies are available and selling. You can find them at  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BJTGRTO
    I doubtless missed a bunch of things — so use the comments section to add in the news I
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  • August 22, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: What to DO with your Street Team


    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.

    It’s fairly easy to recognize that a Street Team would be helpful. It’s even pretty simple to put a Street Team together and give it/them a place to congregate.

    But putting them to work…that’s another matter entirely.

    The more I write these posts on building an author platform, the more I get questions that are basically nothing more than requests for me to provide a step-by-step guide to x, y, or z, complete with screenshot examples and graphs. I get requests for me to share EXACTLY what to do (printouts would be handy!). To leave nothing up for chance.

    There are a number of things wrong with this. The main one being not everyone’s audience will respond to the same strategies. Everyone is different. Every reader group prefers certain approaches over others. That’s how it works! So if I told you to launch an Instagram campaign when in fact your readers are middle-aged nerds, it’s going to be a complete miss. Why? Because middle-aged nerds aren’t on Instagram as much as they’re on message boards and forums.

    So, let me be clear (and please forgive me for yelling):


    Because of this, only you can really come up with those million-dollar ideas that will garner the buzz you need. ONLY YOU can do this.

    Now, I know you’re probably shaking your head, thinking “I’m not a marketer! I’m not a salesperson! I’m not wired to think

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  • August 21, 2013

    What's the best way to approach an editor at a conference?


    I’ve been trying to catch up on all the questions people have sent in, so let me share a handful of queries: “When speaking with an editor at a conference, what is the best way to approach the allotted 15 minutes? Do I focus on the editor and the titles she’s worked on? Do I focus on my novel? Do I bring a one sheet?”

    The best way to approach your time at an editorial appointment is to do some research and practice. Check to make sure the editor you’re meeting actually acquires books in your genre. Find out what you can about the editor’s likes and dislikes. Then practice what you’re going to say — sharing your name, your book idea, the conflict, theme, genre,and  hook. Be clear and succinct, and rehearse your talk out loud, so you know what it feels like to say the words. Be ready to engage in dialogue with the editor. Dress professionally, and bring some words to show them (many like a one-sheet; I prefer the first five pages). In my view, the focus of a successful editorial appointment is your book, so think through how to talk about your book in an engaging way without sounding like just another pitch.

    Another person wrote to ask, “Should I pay more attention to a literary agent’s list of authors they represent, or to their agency’s list of authors? In other words, if a Big Deal Agency has bestselling authors, how much does that mean if the agent I’m talking to doesn’t represent any of those writers?”

    That’s an interesting question, since every agency tries to promote their bestselling authors. I was at Alive Communications when we represented the Left Behind series that sold 70 million copies worldwide — and while I didn’t have much of anything to do with that series, I certainly mentioned that we represented it when I was a young agent

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  • August 19, 2013

    What is a "best-selling" author?


    Recently I got behind on a bunch of questions readers sent in, so I’m going to try and catch up by offering shorter answers to a host of questions…

    Someone wrote to say, “I’ve seen a number of writers call themselves ‘best-selling’ authors. Quite a few are self-published. What exactly does it take for a book to be considered a bestseller?”

    That’s easy — if an author has hit a bestseller list, they can legitimately call themselves a bestselling author. So if your book hit the New York Times list, the LA Times list, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Denver Post, CBA, ECPA, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any other bestseller lists, you can promote yourself as a “bestselling” author. The problem that’s come up recently is that authors will rise up the Amazon sales ranking, notice they’re in the top five or ten in their sub-category, and suddenly start telling everyone they’ve become a superstar. Um… Let’s just say that rising up the Amazon rankings are great, but they segment things so much it’s considerably easier to make their list than, say, the New York Times Bestseller list. And editors and agents aren’t stupid (no matter what you’ve heard). If your book spent an hour in the top ten of Amazon’s “inspirational historical fiction” category, that won’t really impress editors. Stick to the major lists, and you’ll figure out who is a legitimate bestseller.

    Another writer wants to know, “How many words are in a standard romance novel? A thriller? A literary novel? What about a novella?”

    At Harlequin, a contemporary category romance is 55,000 words, and a historical romance is 75,000 words. At other houses (those that aren’t selling to a subscriber list) those numbers are larger. Most contemporary stand-alone novels are in the 70 to 80,000 word range, and some publishing houses prefer they stretch to 90,000 words. Thrillers tend to go long — 90,000 words. Spec

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