A dozen years ago, I was working as a literary agent with Alive Communications in Colorado Springs, and we had a great group of people all pitching in. Rick Christian (the boss, and the guy who basically began the notion of a literary agent working in CBA), Greg Johnson (now the President of WordServe), Kathy Helmers (a principal with Creative Trust Agency in Nashville), Andrea Heinecke (then my assistant, now a literary agent in her own right), Alice Crider (who worked as my assistant, then became an editor at Random House), as well as several other good folks. We had hired a new guy, Lee Hough, who’d been working as an editor for a mid-size publishing house, and came in with a great book sense.
Lee had heard this story, about a wealthy art dealer in Houston who had befriended a homeless African-American man while volunteering at a meals program. It was a great human story — the art dealer’s wife was dying of cancer, the homeless man had lived an incredibly hard life, he would eventually step in and take over the ministry that the art dealer’s wife had started, and somehow the characters all came together to help one another. Lee saw the value in it right away. He thought it was a one-of-a-kind, life-changing story of redemption and change.
Unfortunately, nobody else in publishing seemed to agree. I watched Lee pitch that book to house after house, continually getting turned down, people questioning the facts of the story or the salability of memoir in the Christian market. It seemed like week after week, as we’d gather for our Tuesday morning staff meetings, Lee would say he was still pitching that book, still believed in it, still trying to encourage the author to hang with him. I’m not exaggerating when I say most of us would have given up. (I might have actually said that to Lee, truth
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.
Wow, it feels like it’s been forever since I last posted here! As always, we’re going to talk marketing and platform-buidling, but since we haven’t done so in awhile, let’s ease into things with a fun post.
Have you ever thought that you’re doing the marketing thing right only to find out that your sales pitches and strategies are falling on deaf ears?
Have you ever been convinced that so-and-so was CERTAIN to buy your book only to discover that they walked away empty-handed?
Have you ever felt that people are lying to your face, acting interested when you tell them about your book but then completely forgetting it exists when you leave the room?
Have you ever wondered why no one retweets or shares your statuses with others?
If so, you may suffer from Overly Aggressive Marketing Syndrome. Here are its symptoms:
– Conversation domination. Test for this symptom by interacting with a potential reader, and then when finished ask yourself what you know about them. If you come away only knowing their name and where they’re from, chances are, you suffer from this symptom.
– Social media saturation. Test for this by looking at your recent Tweets, personal Facebook status updates, and blog posts. If multiple times per day your updates and Tweets focus on your book and/or career, chances are you’re either in the middle of a book release or you suffer from this symptom.
– Solitary administration. Test for this by looking through your correspondence for times in which fans, bloggers, friends and family have come to
Today we have a guest blog, from Claire Morgan at OEDB…
It doesn’t matter if you’re a student or a professional writer: there’s always something new to learn and ways to make your writing more refined, better researched, and more effective. Writing is essential for students who want to succeed, whether they’re enrolled in one of the top online colleges or an Ivy League university. As essential as it is, learning to write well isn’t easy. The best practices for writing and research can sometimes be subjective, and the finer points of syntax and style often take a backseat to looming deadlines and strict citation guidelines.
Luckily, there are many helpful resources that make it easier to build on your existing skills while
learning new ones. We’ve compiled links to sites dedicated to helping students, bloggers, and professional writers improve their techniques while also becoming better editors and researchers. Browse through the following list or focus on categories you need most. It’s organized by subject and resources are listed alphabetically within. With more than 150 resources to chose from, you’re bound to find something that can make your writing life a little easier.
These blogs can help you learn more about the profession of writing, brush up your skills, and even see what it takes to get a book published.
- Copyblogger: On Copyblogger, Brian Clark offers tips on how to improve the content, marketing, and business of a blog. A must for any writer hoping to gain readership in the digital sphere.
- The Creative Penn: Joanna Penn offers up her insights on writing, publishing, and book marketing on this useful blog.
- Evil Editor: Learn what not to do when submitting your work to an editor through this entertaining blog.
- Fiction Writing: This About.com blog is a great place to get some basics insights on how to write better fiction.
- Harriet the Blog: The Poetry
Related to the recent posts about CBA and the general market, someone sent this: “I’m a writer who hasn’t been able to find success in the traditional CBA markets. I was told my book is ‘too message oriented for most Christian publishers.’ One house told me they want ‘values fiction, not message fiction.’ Is this a real trend? What is values fiction? How does it differ from message fiction?”
It’s a real trend. “Message fiction” is a story that gets weighed down by the author trying to deliver some sort of obvious, heavy-handed message. An example? Christian writers who want to send me their novel about the naughty 15-year-old girl who fools around, gets pregnant, then has to show me her struggle about whether to get an abortion or not, complete with angst and tears while the author hammers me with the message that “Abortion Is Bad.” WAY too heavy handed, and I see it frequenlty.
Look… I’m pro-life. But the author in that situation isn’t really trying to tell me a story — she’s trying to present me with a Major Life Message. And that’s boring. Who buys fiction to be preached life messages? Nobody. Pro-choice people won’t touch the book, and pro-life people don’t need to read it because they’re already convinced. If I want political messages, I’ll turn on MSNBC or Fox News (depending on your political leanings). If I feel a need for entertaining liberal messages, I’ll listen to NPR. But I buy a novel for the STORY. (And this isn’t limited to abortion books — there’s also the “We’re Destroying The Planet” books, the “Capitalism Is Evil” books, the “Obama Is The AntiChrist” books, and the “You Need To Fall On Your Knees And Accept Jesus Because You’re Going To Hell” books. They are all boring. Nobody wants them And they don’t work. So if you’re writing a book to share a message like that,
In light of the last couple posts, some wrote this: “For the uneducated among us, what exactly does a literary agent do in CBA, and why is one even necessary in Christian publishing?”
A good literary agent will help an author focus an idea, respond to the writing, perhaps offer thoughts to give shape to the manuscript, assist in the creation of a strong proposal, know who will be interested in the project, have the relationships to get it in front of publishing decision-makers, solicit offers, walk the author through the decision-making process, negotiate the deal, and ensure contract compliance. Depending on the relationship the author and agent have, the literary agent may very well serve as encourager, timekeeper, counselor, career guidance officer, and sounding board to the author. Or the agent may serve as a business manager, helping the author map out the details of making a life in the arts.
Why is an agent necessary? Because most authors don’t necessarily know how to do all of those things, and need a specialist to assist them. And because a good agent brings access through his or her relationships in the industry. AND because publishers long ago realized the value of agents, and generally won’t look at unsolicited manuscripts, but ask that all proposals come through a legitimate agent. Think about selling your home — you can do it on your own (my wife and I have sold houses “by owner”), but it ain’t easy. You’ve got to educate yourself in order to make sure it’s all legal and that the deal is done appropriately and fairly. And if you own an expensive home, it’s awfully tough to sell it yourself — buyers want the professionalism that comes from having the assistance of a good realtor overseeing the sale. Similarly, when you sign a book contract, you’re agreeing to a series of legal clauses that will govern your book for
Our discussion yesterday about CBA and the general market lead to several questions, including someone asking, “So what are the differences between CBA and ABA books?”
There are many similarities between the religious market and the general market. Both markets want to offer good books. (I’ve never met the guy who wanted to produce or sell a bad book.) Both want to entertain in some way. Both intend to have most of their books foster some sort of understanding.
Yet there are real differences. Many people writing in CBA are largely doing so because they feel they have a “message” they want to pass along. I meet these folks at conferences all the time – in their way of thinking, God has given them this great story, and they must be obedient and tell it to others. They have “Truth” that must be communicated. Sure, they want to be successful in the market, but even more important is the promulgation of the Gospel, and the notion of being obedient to share that message. Perhaps we could say “effective ministry” supplants “making money” in the hearts of many religious authors (not all, but many). And, of course, one could argue that there are certainly plenty of people in the general market who believe strongly in their own message, and feel that same need to share it, whether it be “how to lose weight” or “how to save the planet” or “why we shouldn’t go to war.” The notion of “calling” is a bit ephemeral — one author can be totally committed to a cause, and another can be totally committed to the opposite cause. In publishing, we understand the importance of exchanging ideas, of making a case, or saying it well. That’s the author’s job, no matter what market you’re in.
However, I think it’s safe to say that, if faith-based authors are often driven to share some sort of message,
Just back from a fabulous BEA convention, where the mood was upbeat, nobody was whining about the future of books, and everyone involved (authors, publishers, agents, sales people, marketing folks) seemed excited about the future of the industry. Loved being back in New York and seeing all the great titles coming out. I like to watch trends, and noticed several at the show (which I’ll talk more about in future posts), including the changes to faith-based publishing. So while I was at the show, someone sent this: “You seem to be one of the few literary agents who works in the general market (what a lot of people call the ABA) as well as working in the Christian market (the CBA). I’ve published two books in CBA, but think my next book fits more of a general market audience. My question: is ‘crossing over’ from CBA to ABA a reality?”
Okay, if you’re not terribly religious, stay with me for a minute…. I think this stuff is interesting to talk about. First, for those not in the know, CBA is the Christian Booksellers Association, and it’s the realm of all things faith-based in publishing. ABA is the American Booksellers Association, and it’s sometimes used (though less and less) as a descriptor for the general, non-religious world of publishing. Now, if you’ll indulge me, let me offer a theological reflection that speaks to this issue of CBA and ABA books: Christianity teaches that when you meet God, you are changed. (I don’t care if you believe that or not, just hear the argument.) A Christian would argue that everything about you is different, because you’ve been exposed to God. So, from a theologian’s perspective, a Christian probably won’t be completely understood by those who are not Christians. He or she is speaking a different language. And any cultural anthropologist till tell you that the longer you’re a Christian, the fewer non-Christian
While our hardworking agents are winding down from BEA this past weekend in New York, another author is filling in with a guest post. Enjoy!
Tina Bustamante is a writer, passionate reader, wife, mom, friend, and traveler. A world traveler who hails from the Pacific Northwest, she studied Theology at Northwest University and considers the craft of writing a journey that is sometimes bumpy and downright rough, but always worth continuing. Currently, she speaks when invited and writes fiction during the day. She is married to Rodrigo Bustamante and they have two lovely children named Emma and Lucas.
Seven years ago, I completed my first novel. I considered it a brilliant piece of work, worthy of a great publishing contract. I had worked hard on the manuscript–putting my soul, my mind, and all my attention into crafting a great story full of adventure.
I decided to take a risk and give it to a few friends, who read it and encouraged me to send it out. So, feeling like I might be the next Madeleine L’Engle, I sent it to another author who agreed to help me.
About three weeks later, I received an email from him letting me know I was not ready for prime time. My work was not good enough. He tried to encourage me, told me I had talent, but that he didn’t think The Secret of the Keys was going to make it into the publishing world. He suggested I write my next novel, which I thought rude. In hindsight, I wasn’t looking for critical feedback. I wanted someone to tell me my work was great. I wanted a quick contract and easy fame.
I cried. For three days. Then, with ever-increasing arrogance, I decided he had no idea what he was talking about. I would send it out to other agents and someone was bound to love my book. They didn’t. It got
While our hardworking agents are attending BEA in New York this week, several authors are filling in with guest posts. Enjoy!
Rajdeep Paulus decided to be a writer during her junior year in high school after her English teacher gave her an “F” but told her she had potential. She studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and began writing on the island of Dominica, while her husband of two months biked down to campus to begin his first day of medical school. Fifteen years, four daughters, and a little house on a hill in the quaint town of Locust Valley later, she now writes YAFiction and blogs weekly In Search of Waterfalls.
I’m not the first newbie author to wade through the waters of marketing her first book with a bit of trepidation. Truth be told, when I learned that a writer’s job was not simply to write a great story, sit back and wait for readers to come in flocks to scoop up copies galore, I welcomed the challenge that lay before me. Simply because I’m a tad atypical to the hermit-writer stereotype: I love people and rubbing elbows with the world outside my writing cave.
So when I read a title like “The Extroverted Writer” by Amanda Luedeke, I think, oh, she’s talking about me! When, in fact, she’s composed a book chalk full of practical advice for all types of writers who find the whole marketing thing as messy as a knot on a bad hair-day morning. Something I am all too familiar with since I have four princesses. Hair balls up the ying-yang, but where was I?
Yes. The art of marketing your first book. How do you do it? Successfully? And how do you know how to proportion your time, giving yourself time to write, edit, market and still take time to breathe.
So I began my marketing momentum by brainstorming. A bunch of ideas
While our hardworking agents are attending BEA in New York this week, several authors are filling in with guest posts. Enjoy!
Keri Wyatt Kent writes and speaks on slowing down to listen to God, and occasionally tries to follow her own advice. She and her husband Scot have two teenage children and live in Chicago. This piece originally ran on Tim Fall’s blog.
In an oft-quoted lecture on women and fiction, Virginia Woolf remarked that a woman needs a room of her own if she is to write.
Woolf had been asked to lecture on women and fiction. Here’s a bit more of the context: “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.”
What is meant by “a room of her own” has been discussed countless times since Woolf said those words in 1928. It’s obvious she meant much more than a physical space with four walls to contain it. But certainly she was talking about some space, and boundaries to protect it (whether physical or metaphorical).
In the same lecture, Woolf noted that because of her gender, she was barred from walking on the lawn or even entering the library at the university she was visiting, unless accompanied by a man. Certainly independence and autonomy were part of what Woolf longed for and recommended.
I am a writer by profession, and if you take these requirements literally, I do indeed have both financial resources and a “room of my own.” The spare bedroom in our house is my office. And I earn my living—modest as it is—by writing.
Women have far greater access to resources than they did in Woolf’s day. And yet, sometimes we think we’re still not allowed in the library. We