• July 31, 2013

    What's selling right now?


    A regular reader of this blog sent me a note that read, “Chip, I know you’ve been to BEA and RWA in the past month. Can you simply tell us what books are selling right now? What are the trends you’re seeing?”

    I can try. In the ebook space, it’s pretty clear that contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and suspense thrillers of all types are selling well. That would include PI novels, police procedurals, crime novels, etc. So what we call “category” fiction (that is, fiction that follows certain rules for its genre) really leads the way in ebooks. It’s nice to see literary fiction is finally starting to sell well digitally. For a long time there was a sense that people weren’t buying literary novels on their Nooks and Kindles, but we seem to be beyond that now.

    Of course, the whole notion of “fiction on e-readers” is not just a trend, it’s an established fact in the contemporary world of publishing. We all thought fiction was outselling nonfiction about 3-to-1 on e-readers, and that was the figure I often used at conferences. Then a study was made recently that showed fiction is outselling nonfiction roughly 8-to-1 in the e-book market. Wow… My guess is that people who are used to reading things electronically are simply getting a lot of their nonfiction information (recipes, health tips, medical advice, etc) on the web, leaving them to look for fiction on their readers.

    In the print space, we’re still seeing the fiction bestseller lists ruled by familiar names. Nearly every big book these days is from an author who has had big books in the past, which seems frustrating to a lot of novelists… but that’s just the nature of the business. When a book breaks out (and there are always going to be breakout novels — see Gone Girl, Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Really Crappy Writing, etc), we add

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  • July 31, 2013

    How does a new writer get noticed?


    A regular reader of the blog sent in this question: What can a new author do to get noticed by an agent or editor?

    The most essential thing you can do as someone new to the industry is to be a great writer, of course. All the agents and editors have seen wannabe writers who are anxious to get published, but haven’t put in the time to really learn the craft. We see stories that have plot problems, shallow story lines, weak characters, bad dialogue, tons of description… And the surprising thing to me is that I’ll sometimes see that from a writer at a conference who is pushing hard for representation.

    It’s why I’ll frequently ask people at a face-to-face meeting, “What’s your goal for this meeting?” I mean, some people at a conference are looking for me to react to their story. Others want to show me some writing and interact a bit on it. Some people just have questions about the business or their career. But if a writer sits down at a ten minute meeting and expects an agent to offer representation, that’s probably unrealistic. A much more realistic goal would be to have a discussion about the salability of your work, and see if the agent or editor wants to take a more in-depth look at some later date. Maybe have you email the manuscript to him or her.

    If you want to get noticed at a conference, show up for your appointment on time. Dress professionally. Have a brief pitch prepared, and make sure you’ve actually practiced it out loud, so you know what you’re going to say. (Your family will think you’ve gone crazy for talking to yourself in the basement… but that’s okay. If you want to be a writer, you probably already qualify as “crazy.”) Do some research on the agents, to make sure you can target your pitch. (I’ve lost

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  • July 25, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Overly Aggressive Marketing Syndrome, Symptom Four


    Amanda Luedeke
     is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow h
    er 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’re on the last symptom of Overly Aggressive Marketing Syndrome, so in case you missed any, the symptoms have been:


    The fourth and final symptom? Unbalanced application.
    Test for this by noting the time you spend with family, the time you spend with yourself, and the time you spend with work/marketing your book. If you’re spending more time on your book than in the other areas of life, chances are you’re either in the middle of a book release, or you suffer from this symptom.
    This is NOT an excuse to work less or play more or ditch all of those great marketing plans you had in place. Fact it, a writer’s busy times come in waves. Some weeks or months will be crazier than others.
    BUT this IS a nudge to evaluate your time and how you spend it.
    Those afflicted with Overly Aggressive Marketing Syndrome eat, think, and breathe their book and their sales. They check their Amazon rank numerous times a day (months after the book has released). They obsess over checking their Twitter and their Facebook and their blog comments. They take their computers or tablets to their kid’s football games and make excuses why they don’t have time to do this or that.
    It’s workaholism, really. And it stinks.
    Get control of this symptom by identifying the IMPORTANT things in life.
    Outside of your responsibilities (You may have a 9-to-5. You may coach a high school sports team. You may volunteer at the shelter. You
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  • July 24, 2013

    Would great writers get published today?


    A wonderful writer friend sent me a note that read, in part, “Those of us in the industry tend to laud writers like Graham Green and Flannery O’Connor, but would anyone publish them now? No Whiskey Priest or Hazel Motes. It seems that, in both CBA as well as the general market, there’s no place for these characters; they have no appeal.”

    I respectfully disagree, of course. Contemporary publishers would take both authors because they offered great craft. What would be interesting would be to see how religious audiences would respond to these clearly faith-infused stories.

    But don’t misunderstand — commerciality still trumps craft. Good grief — nobody thinks of Left Behind as being great art, but the series sold 70 million copies. No critic seriously believes the Harry Potter series is great literature, but it’s now the best selling fiction series in history. That’s okay. People like commercial stories. And I shamelessly represent commercial stories. I’m happy to work with books that sell — and I also want to be doing books that make a difference in the lives of others. I don’t see life as an either/or decision. We want to create great art, AND we want to see our books sell. That’s the constant tension in working with writers.

    So let me ask readers a question… Who is YOUR favorite writer, and why? Let’s have a conversation in the “comments” section on who you think we should all be reading.

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  • July 18, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Taking Topic Suggestions


    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.

    As Amanda is attending RWA’s annual conference in Atlanta at the moment, she isn’t sharing her usual Thursday dose of marketing wisdom. However, in a couple weeks she will be talking about all things related to street teams, so stay tuned.

    For today, Amanda is asking for your input—do you have a publishing topic you want her to discuss on a future post? Any marketing concerns that need fresh insight? Please use the comments’ feature below to share your questions and ideas. Thanks!


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  • July 16, 2013

    "It's the Power of Words"


    A novelist wants to know, “What keeps you going? You’ve spent years as a writer, editor, publisher, and agent – what fuels your passion?”

    I love books and words. I believe in the power of words. I believe in the ministry of words. There are many movies I love, and several that have had a short-term emotional impact on me, but I’d be hard-pressed to name many movies that actually changed me – I went, saw it, and left a different person. Maybe that’s happened a couple times (“Schindler’s List” comes to mind), but for the most part movies are an enjoyable diversion.

    I love music, and have been moved by songs and arrangements, but I doubt I could tell you my life was ever changed because I attended the symphony. The same is true with paintings, sculpture, and dance. The arts are great for helping us explore the world, feel things, see things in a new way. But their influence is often short-lived. Yet I can point to several books that simply changed my life. After I read Brennan Manning’s RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL, I was simply never the same. When I completed Frederick Buechner’s SACRED JOURNEY or Henri Nouwen’s THE WAY OF THE HEART, I was different than I’d been before I read those books.

    Words can do that. A book can have a life-changing effect on a person. Perhaps that’s why when God came to earth as a man, his closest friend, in trying to describe him, didn’t say, “He was like a Symphony” or “He was the Great Dance.” Instead, the guy who was closest to him wrote, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God.”

    So Jesus was described as being the “word” – the very word of God come to life. To me, that not only says something about Christ, but about the importance of words.


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  • July 15, 2013

    Pitching: Are You Prepared?


    Guest writer HOLLY LORINCZ is a novelist as well as a publishing consultant at MacGregor Literary, and Chip’s assistant.  Before Mac Lit, Holly was the editor of a literary magazine and then an award winning instructor, teaching journalism, speech and writing at the high school and college level. She was also a nationally recognized competitive speaking coach for years, giving her a unique perspective on book pitches. 


    By Holly Lorincz

    The brilliant Chip MacGregor (the man who signs my checks) recently posted an article regarding what agents look for when they attend writing conferences. I would like to extend his comments on pitches, since many of you are getting ready for RWA.

    When was the last time you were at a conference, pitching? Sitting in a hotel banquet room crowded with tables and sweaty, nervous writers? I’m not saying that to be judgmental . . . I’ve been that sweaty, nervous writer hoping to win over an agent with my charm, if not my book. I went in with my satchel stuffed with one-sheets, copies of the synopsis and the first fifty pages. I’d even made up clever business cards. I was dressed in a skirt and heels, making sure I didn’t look stupid even if I said something stupid. Which, with me, was bound to happen. And knowing that, I practiced the heck out of my pitch, making sure I sounded comfortable and natural (though completely memorized) while describing the hook and major premise in less than two minutes. I made sure the agents/editors I was signed up to talk to were actually looking for books in my genre, checked out their bios so I could try to figure out what they might be interested in. Oh, I had done my research. I was prepared.

    Shockingly, a good chunk of the writers were less prepared. Or not prepared at all. They were using their expensive

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  • July 11, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Overly Aggressive Marketing Syndrome, Symptom Three


    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’re addressing our third symptom of Overly Aggressive Marketing Syndrome, and it’s Solitary Administration.

    Test for this by looking through your correspondence for times in which fans, bloggers, friends and family have come to you, seeing how they can help. If you have very few instances in recent months in which others have taken the initiative or the lead…heck, if you feel alone in most of your marketing endeavors, you may suffer from this symptom.

    While it may seem that I’m pointing to those who carry the world on their shoulders and refuse to let it go, I’m actually talking about those who have so overworked their supporters that the desire to help is gone.

    It looks like this…

    My book is on sale this week! I need to let everyone know!

    So, I go to my friends and family…people who I KNOW I can rely on to share the info on Facebook, Twitter, and such.

    But wait! Barely anyone is responding! WHY AREN’T THEY SHARING MY NEWS WITH THEIR FRIENDS?! It only takes a second to send a Tweet! What’s the hang-up!

    Okay, maybe I can strike a deal…

    Friends, if you share this news, I’ll be eternally grateful! 


    Okay, maybe a different approach…

    Friends, it’s really important that you Tweet this for me, so all who do so will get something special from me!

    A few comply.

    Now that’s not the response I wanted! What am I going to do?!


    Sheesh, what’s a girl gotta do?! Oh,

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  • July 10, 2013




    Someone wrote to say, “I know you’re going to the big RWA conference this month. Of the appointments you have at a conference like that, how many actually result in your asking for more material? How many result in you giving serious consideration to an author? How many will you actually sign to represent? Just curious.”

    Of the appointments I have at a normal writing conference, I’d say I might have 15 to 30 appointments — some formal, some informal.

    Of those, maybe 5 or 6 result in my asking to see more.

    Of those, I may get serious about 1 or 2.

    Of those, I may or may not sign one to an agency agreement.

    For years, most of us have agreed that we’re looking for ONE GOOD PROJECT at each conference. That will mean the conference basically pays for itself. Sometimes I don’t get any. Sometimes I get one or two. And I should note that RWA is one of the very best conferences in the country – a great place to learn about writing and the industry (not just for romance writers, but for anyone looking to make a living with books in this country). It’s coming up in Atlanta later in July, and it’s worth every penny to attend.

    On a related matter, I had someone ask, “What is the most important piece of advice you can give to a writer heading to an agent or editor appointment at a writing conference?”

    The most important piece of advice is simple: Have your proposal and sample writings so well honed that an agent or editor has no reason to say “no.” That’s easier said than done, of course, but that should be the goal. A great idea, expressed through great writing, in a great proposal, preferably by an author with a great platform. All of those things take time and talent, of course, but

  • July 8, 2013

    On Contracts: What’s New With Rights



    Guest writer Marie Prys is Contract Administrator at MacGregor Literary. A former editor and co-author, she now spends her working hours reading each and every contract MacGregor Literary facilitates while working closely with our agents and trading emails with, at last count, 25 publishers.


    On Contracts: What’s New with Rights by Marie Prys

    At long last, the wait is over. The publishing agreement has arrived, likely in the form of a PDF attachment delivered over E-mail. Looking rather heavy with single-spaced legalese and significant ramifications, you want to print, sign, and send. It’s GO time.

    And since it has taken six months or a year or even two years to get to this point, it’s tempting to skip to the good section, the show-me-the-money paragraph, and then head for the signature page. You’ve worked so hard and so long for this moment–you might feel hesitant about appearing troublesome or finding problems with this agreement, of asking further questions.

    Experienced authors will tell you–this contract could be your worst nightmare–a career-killing albatross that will haunt your future. Then again, it could be a very standard contract that is fair and will establish a mutually beneficial relationship between you and your publisher. If you’re not sure exactly what you have in front of you, consider these few items regarding rights, all of which I’ve seen popping up lately in my daily dose of contract reading.

    Which rights should I grant to the publisher?

    Publishers are asking for more specific rights than ever. Theme park rights, video game rights, lyric rights, calendar rights, workbook and curriculum rights–all of these classes of rights show up in the wording. These are in addition to the usual rights being routinely requested and granted to publishing houses of all shapes and sizes: digital, motion picture/dramatic rights, audio rights, and foreign rights.

    If you have a connection for someone to write a screenplay and potentially sell

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