• April 6, 2013

    Guest Post: Vicki Hinze


    Mailing Lists

    For decades, Authors have been told there are two things they really should do:

    1.  A website.

    2.  A newsletter.

    The website is self-explanatory, and I’ll discuss it in more depth in another article.  For now, it’s sufficient to say that when readers, booksellers, or industry professionals are interested in an author or intrigued by something an author did or said–or something else has spurred curiosity–these people first look to the author’s website to find out more about that author.

    They often skip the search engine “search” and go straight to the author’s name followed by .com.  That’s the biggest reason you’re always advised to try to get your name (or pseudonym, if you use one) and set your site up (author’s name).com.

    The newsletter is a bit more tricky.  There are multiple reasons why they’re a good idea.  Here are a few:

    1.  It’s the author’s personal connection to the reader.  A dialogue, if you will, that is between just the two of you.

    2.  It’s an efficient way to exchange information, to keep readers current on what’s going on with the author’s work.

    3.  It’s essential to notify readers of special events and special deals of interest to them. (For example, for one day or one month, a bookseller has reduced the price of your $15.99 book to $5.60.  That’s helpful information for readers.

    How to let them know brings us to newsletters, and that brings us to mailing lists: the means through which we can connect for those purposes.  I hear authors groaning already about another writing-related task that keeps them from writing the books, but let me share that your mailing list is an enormously valuable asset.  Why?

    I touched on the personal connection and information sharing and awareness factors above.  But this is also the author’s opportunity to create bonds.  They’re important–to authors but also to readers.  In your newsletter, readers see

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  • April 4, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Book Piracy, Idea Piracy, and What Happens When You Live in Fear


    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 andBarnes & Noble.

    I received a question the other week on the danger of posting ideas, content, and other deliciously stealable things online.

    Then this week, I fielded a few emails from authors who are seeing their books available for free on some pretty sketchy sites.

    So, BECAUSE I’m a big fan of ebooks, and BECAUSE I’ve encouraged writers to throw their content online and therefore subject it to the all of the content pirates that lurk about, I figured I should say a few things about this very unfortunate…yet inevitable…problem.

    1. There is no way to fully prevent others from stealing your work. Especially if you publish anything digitally. Amazon brags about their DRM anti-piracy thing-a-majig, but it’s really a bunch of fluff. There’s zero way for us to adequately patrol and safeguard digital content.

    2. There will always be people looking to get things for free. There will always be people who abuse creative content. The good news is these people aren’t as prevalent in the book industry as they are in, say, the music industry. Piracy FOREVER changed music. We aren’t seeing it doing much to change publishing, because while it exists, it’s not as prevalent, and the music industry paved the way for lots of anti-piracy legislation that has helped minimize the problem.

    3. There is always a chance someone will steal your book idea. And this doesn’t just happen online. Go to a writer’s conference or critique group or MFA program and tell your idea to the wrong person and BAM. It’s stolen.

    4. There is always a chance someone

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  • April 3, 2013

    Should I help my friend write her cool personal story?


    A writing friend sent this question: “I have a chance to do a book with a celebrity. Does a project like that really help my writing career?”

    I have a rule for collaborative writers to consider: If you come across a story that involves celebrity or heavy media attention, you might want to listen to the idea… but don’t fall in love with celebrity. Those are about the only “personal story” books with a chance of actually creating a payday for you, but it’s not automatic. A buddy of mine was approached by a well-known guy who owns a famous chain of stores, and was invited to “tell the story” behind all that success. He wrote the book, which was self-published and sent to all the franchise owners and managers for staff to read, plus they sell a few in their stores. But the book never made it into bookstores, didn’t break out, didn’t really move the writer’s career forward, and didn’t make him a lot of money. In many ways it’s sort of a paean to the owner’s celebrity status. So be wary of saying “yes” just because someone is a celebrity.

    I’ve had more than one person write to ask about “helping my friend do a book” or “helping my pastor do a book. ” Again, if you feel you owe the person a favor, that’s your decision. Or if you feel “called” to somehow do this project… well, God outranks me. But be aware you don’t have to do a book with your friend just because she has a cool story, or with your pastor just because he is in a position of authority. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of “helping” people who have no ability with words — and nothing is more frustrating to a writer.

    My solution: If somebody comes up and asks you to help them write their book, learn to

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  • April 2, 2013

    Guest Post with Chad Allen


    How to Be a Christian Author without Embarrassing God

    Tony Campolo wrote a book a while back titled Following Jesus without Embarrassing God. In it Campolo challenged Christians to let go of practices and attitudes that had very little to do with Jesus. Campolo’s goal was for more of Jesus to come through.

    As an editorial director for Baker Publishing Group I work almost exclusively with Christian authors, which is both my joy and my passion. Every day I get to help authors write about the most sublime and sacred truths the world has ever known.

    That’s why I want to write this post. Sometimes we Christians do things that make the rest of the world squirm, including other Christians. We are good news people, but sometimes we get in the way of the good news, and that includes me.

    So, with a nod to Tony Campolo, I humbly submit the following ways to be a Christian author without embarrassing God.

    Don’t say, “God told me your publishing house is supposed to publish my book.”

    Whether God did or not, you don’t have to tell us about it. Honestly it freaks publishing people out, and we’re tempted to say back to you, “God told us to run away from you!”

    Be authentic.

    One of the most powerful things we Christians can do is faithfully and transparently tell others why we believe. Avoid putting on airs.

    Stop proof texting.

    Proof texting is when you pull Scripture out of your butt to serve your own needs and make you sound smart or spiritual. Don’t do that. Have some respect for the text. Keep it contextual and organic.

    Find some friends with whom you can be real about your struggles.

    The thing I’ve noticed about high-profile Christian authors who end up in the news for moral failure is that they lose connection with, or never had, friends with whom they can be

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  • April 1, 2013

    Get Published teleseminar with Michael Hyatt, Chip MacGregor, and Amanda Luedeke



    Join us (Chip and Amanda) and Michael Hyatt, bestselling author and former CEO of Thomas Nelson, for a complimentary LIVE teleseminar on Wednesday, April 10 at 8pm Eastern Time (7pm Central, 5pm Pacific).

    During this call you’ll have the ability to get your publishing questions answered by the three of us. You’ll also learn many of Michael’s insider secrets on getting published and building a platform for success.

    The call will last about an hour. It’s free for all to join and there will be an MP3 recording / replay shared with all who register. When you register you will have the option to submit a question for us to answer

    To register now, click here.


    Q: What is a teleseminar?

    A: Think of it as a giant conference call. You dial in (or listen via streaming web audio), along with others and listen while we share and answer questions.

    Q: How much does this cost?

    A: It’s free. If you choose to access the LIVE call via phone, you may incur standard long-distance charges if you choose a dial-in number that is not local to you (there are multiple dial-in number options). Other than that, no fee at all.

    Q: What is the date and time?

    A: The LIVE call will take place on Wednesday, April 10 at 8pm Eastern Time (7pm Central, 5pm Pacific).

    Q: How can I access the LIVE call?

    A: You’ll have two options. Our call capacity is 3,000 total. Five hundred can access the call via phone, the rest via streaming web audio (listening via your computer). Access is on a first-come, first-served based on registration and which access option you chose. We will notify you prior to the call with the specific phone number and web address.

    Q: I can’t make the LIVE call. Will there be a recording?

    A: Yes, we’ll make the recording available to all who registered

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  • March 28, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Demystifying Amazon’s Sales Ranking System


    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.

    In the spirit of full disclosure (because that’s what I feel Thursday’s with Amanda are all about), I figured it would be helpful to demystify Amazon’s Sales Ranking system. Well, okay…it’s AMAZON, so we can’t completely demystify it, but I think there are some clues that if every author knew them, it would make the whole thing less confusing and more do-able from a marketing perspective.

    We all know that the sales ranking is an indication of how well a book is selling on Amazon in comparison to all of the other books sold on Amazon. Okay, that part is easy enough.

    And we also know that the top 100 rankings show up on a special list. Furthermore, we know that there are lists for each category, and a book can rank in THOSE top 100 lists without ranking in the big one. And we know that a book that appears on a top 100 list (ESPECIALLY the main top 100 list), will get more attention and lead to more sales.

    Again, this is pretty basic stuff.

    What isn’t as easy to determine, is HOW MANY BOOKS DOES AN AUTHOR NEED TO SELL TO GET INTO THE TOP 100? Heck, how many do they need to sell to get into the thousands? The ten thousands?

    Here’s where I get very transparent with you, folks. So brace yourself, because I’m about to throw myself and my book out there to the wolves.

    My book, The Extroverted Writer, was e-published on March 15. I did a soft launch, because I knew I’d be

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  • March 27, 2013

    What makes a good writing workshop? (A guest blog)


    Thinking about that first all-day writing workshop I was paid to speak at still makes me cringe. I don’t know how the organizer found out about me, but she invited me to speak, and made me sound really good in the glossy colored brochures she printed.  This workshop was going to draw a crowd.  We might have to add more chairs to the hotel’s conference room.

    What a disappointment when the day before the event, she was begging people to come, even letting them in for free.  These people had no idea who I was and the big bucks the organizer was charging was too much for those she had targeted. I know that in the end, the only big thing about the workshop was that she lost big money.

    But that experience taught me. Ten years later as I set out to conduct my own all-day writing workshops, I had that first workshop experience in mind.  I focused on what the organizer had done right and especially on what she had done wrong. They say bad experience is a good teacher— or something like that. Some thoughts on creating a good workshop…

    Plan in advance Don’t think of an idea and then have a workshop the next Saturday.  Plan at least three to four months ahead. A Saturday far from any holiday is good. Avoid the Christmas or New Year season. Ask potential attendees to choose between two or three dates that suit them best. Spend hours working on all aspects of the workshop. Will you serve lunch? Snacks? Coffee?

    Book a choice location – This should be easily accessible. Where I live, I like the Hampton Inn and Suites in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a variety of reasons from the inviting lounge to the cushioned chairs in the conference room to the mints they place in bowls at each table to the outdoor garden where attendees can

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  • March 26, 2013

    Does a proposal marked "requested materials" get reviewed faster?


    I’ve been using the past couple week to try and blow through a bunch of publishing questions people have asked, offering shorter-than-usual answers to try and get people the information they need. For example, one writer asked this: “I’ve heard that requested materials get put toward the top of the slush pile in most cases, but does this still mean a 3 month response time from most agents?”

    If you ask ten agents “what’s the average response time to a submission,” you’ll probably get ten different responses. Just remember what your mom always told you: patience is a virtue. My guess is that, for most of the agents out there, the response time varies based on how busy we are at the time. Some months (like December and July, for example) are slow months for publishing, so all of us get to catch up on our queries and proposals. But yes, most of us are sure to look at requested materials ahead of the slush pile. I try to respond to every query within a month. I try to respond to every requested proposal faster – as soon as I can get to it. In most cases, that’s about two weeks, sometimes three. But no, I’m not perfect, and sometimes things take longer.

    Another writer sent this question my way: “I have a question for all you hardworking agents out there. [Note: Though the author of this question has aimed it at “hardworking” agents, I decided to answer it anyway.] When you get a submission from an unpublished author who has requests from several publishers, do you prefer if the author wait to see if you want to offer representation before she or he sends those submissions into the requesting editors? Or does it not matter?”

    No question about this one—I much prefer the author wait. The thing is, I’ve been working in this business a long time.

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  • March 21, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Available Now! My Book on Building an Author Platform


    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.

    Alright, all of you Thursdays with Amanda fans out there! I’ve got something for you…

    Each week I try to tackle the big, bad topic of how to build an author platform. We’ve looked at Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, blogs, websites, and more, and the backlist of posts has become quite daunting and difficult to search.

    SO to put an end to the madness and help all of you navigate the tips, rules, and tricks we’ve discussed on our Thursdays get-togethers, I’ve released an ebook.

    THE EXTROVERTED WRITER: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform is a compilation of my Thursdays with Amanda posts PLUS a bunch of great new content (new content includes LinkedIn, strategies for building a Twitter following, how to identify your audience, and more). All in a shiny digital package! Categorized, organized, and hopefully quite navigable, this little ebook is perfect for those who have come to love my weekly blog posts.

    Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on knowing your audience:

    How to Find Your Audience

    All right, enough theory. Let’s get practical. How do you take a book that is loved by everyone and your mother and find its basic readership—those who are most inclined to shell out fifteen dollars to buy it (or those who are most inclined to get their parents to shell out fifteen dollars)?

    First, you must identify other movies or books or plays that are similar to your work. So, go to the bookstore or get online and put on your researcher jeans.

    The first similarity should be genre. Match mysteries with mysteries, cozy mysteries with cozy mysteries, police procedurals with police procedurals, and so

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  • March 20, 2013

    Why did you become a writer?


    Someone wrote to say, “I’ve never seen you answer this question… What moved you to begin writing?”

    I’ve always been a words guy — I started writing as a child and never stopped. My mom said that, when I was in first grade, I came home and announced, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a book guy.” So I guess I had to live up to that promise. I’ve been writing ever since. My life has been intertwined with words. My first real job in college was as a copyeditor for a junior high science teacher’s magazine. I later worked for newspapers, then back to magazines, and eventually to books. I can’t not write. There are stories inside me, or stories I see, and they simply must be told. I love working with authors to help them tell their stories. Words are what move me. Thanks for asking. 

    On a related note, someone asked, “As a writer, what keeps you going through the setbacks and disappointments?”

    I suppose a lot of writers will tell you that writing is therapy – and I suppose it is for me, in a way. But I’ve kept writing because I still have stories to tell, I still have things to say. I rarely feel the setbacks I’ve faced were because of my writing. Rather, they were in spite of my writing, or maybe they were at odds with my writing. So I kept writing until I could convince the people who made the mistake of saying “no” in the first place.

    And let’s face it – most “disappointment” authors face is really the simple act of rejection. Writers hate to hear the word “no.” But I’ve never been one who allowed “no” to get in the way of accomplishing what I wanted. So while I’ve had more than my shares of “no” as both writer and agent, I’ve continued writing because that’s

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