• March 4, 2013

    When does an agent want to see a book proposal?


    I’ve been trying to answer a backlog of questions writers have sent my way, so we’re doing some short-answer blog posts for a while. For example, one person asked, “At what point in the process does an agent want to see a book proposal? After the book is completed?”

    Most agents will look at a nonfiction book proposal before the book is completed, but after the author has figured out what he or she wants to say. That is, the author has figured out the question and the answer, and has tried to put some structure (in terms of an outline or table of contents) to the material. With a fiction proposal, most agents want to see a synopsis or overview, just to know what the basic story is, then the first ten to fifty pages, to see if the author can write. If the agent reads a portion and likes it, he or she will probably ask for the rest of the manuscript.

    Someone else asked, “I’ve been told the internet has killed nonfiction… Is nonfiction really dead? It seems like most of the questions you get have to do with fiction.”

    My wife was cooking an East Indian dish the other day, and needed a recipe. Where did she go? To a cookbook? Nope, she went online. I was looking for the answer to a port wine question yesterday. Did I look at one of my wine books? Nope, I went to the web. The internet has made basic information available on every topic to anyone with a computer. That puts the core of nonfiction at risk. I think this points to a major shift we’re seeing in publishing — away from much nonfiction in traditional print form. There will still be plenty of nonfiction that sees print (history, memoir, and much of the “literary” side of writing), but a lot of the how-to side is quickly shifting

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  • March 1, 2013

    How do you know which agents will work hard for you?


    I’ve been going through a long list of questions people have sent in, trying to offer short answers (as compared to my usual loquacious responses). One person wrote this: “I’m interested in getting an agent. How do you know which agent will work hard for you? For that matter, how can an author know which agents the publishers view as legit?”

    If you want to know about an agent, you can always start by asking around. Ask publishers and editors in confidence what they think. Go onto the agency website and check the agent out. Check with “Predators & Editors” and “Writer Beware” to see which agents are not considered legit. Look into “Agent Query” and the other agency-ranking organizations. Pick up a copy of Chuck Sambuccino’s Guide to Literary Agents so you can do some research into the agent. In my opinion, you should look for an agent that’s a member of the Association of Author Representatives (AAR), the professional organization for literary agents. To see if the agent will work hard for you, all you have to do is to see which authors are happy and which agents are doing deals — you can find information on the number of deals done by an agent in the “Dealmakers” section of Publishers Marketplace. A lot of people will just tell you to “talk with other authors,” but I find that less than helpful. First, most people don’t want to say bad things about an agent, or worry that saying something honest will lead to a lawsuit. Second, many authors don’t often know a good agent from a bad one — if their agent got them a deal, they’re happy. I know some authors who have a lousy literary agent, but they’re completely satisfied because they don’t have anything to judge it against.

     Another writer sent me this: “I’m a beginning author, have written a novel, and want to
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  • February 28, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: My New Marketing Book for Writers!


    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.

    Have you enjoyed our Thursday chats on marketing, promotions, and platform-building? I sure have! But so many times it feels as though I’m cramming info into my posts or even breezing over content. And what’s worse, is it’s become clear to me that this site doesn’t exactly make it easy to dig through my old posts!

    So, I have some exciting news! 

    I’ve written a book ALL ABOUT how to use the Internet to grow an author platform! Here’s a peek at the cover:

    From websites to Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest and more, I cover the essential topics, pulling from some of my best posts while also adding in plenty of new content. Whether you’re a social media newbie or guru, an unpublished writer or an industry veteran you’ll come away with actionable items that you can put into practice now.

    THE EXTROVERTED WRITER: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform releases March 15 on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, and Smashwords (for ePub version or all other ebook devices). For now, it will be only available as an ebook.

    If you’d like to recieve a notice when the book is available, sign up for the newsletter here. (It’s not the fanciest newsletter provider, btw. So don’t judge me!).

    Please share this post with your friends! AND if you’ve been a fan of Thursdays with Amanda and would like to offer an endorsement, hit me up at ExtrovertedWriter@gmail.com. I’m hoping to receive testimonies from writers in all walks of life, published or unpublished, who can testify that my Thursday with Amanda tips help make their social media platforms stronger.

    Thank you all, and let me know

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  • February 27, 2013

    Must a novel be completed before an agent will look at it?


    Someone wrote to ask, “Must a novel always be 100% finished before an agent will want to take a look at it? Or if you spotted great voice in an unfinished work, would you take a look and offer encouragement?”

    If I absolutely love the voice, I might sign an author based on the quality of the writing. That happens on occasion. More often, I will look at a project and offer encouragement to the writer if I like his or her writing voice and think it has potential, but still think it needs to be completed. Right now the market is more or less demanding a novel be completed if a publisher is going to take a risk on a new or newer author. So yes, an agent might very well say he likes your work, but put off a decision to sign you until you complete your novel.

    Another asked, “How much of a difference does it make to an agent to hear I’ve been referred by one of their current clients? And how does that compare to a face-to-face with an agent at a conference?”

    It always makes a difference to me when one of the authors I already represents sends a talented writer my way. I figure the writers I represent are already my friends — we understand one another, so they’re probably going to send people my way who would likely be a fit. So consider that a good start. That said, it still usually takes a face-to-face for me to really get to know someone. A conference meeting is often too short (sometimes ten minutes), but it’s a start. In both cases, it will need to be followed up by great writing and a long talk or two, where we both get a feel for whether or not we’re a fit for one another.

    One writer asked, “How are royalties paid? Why is it

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  • February 26, 2013

    Should I use first-person or third-person in my novel?


    Someone asked, “In your opinion, is it better to see first-person or third-person POV novels for a first-time novelist?”

    I’m not one who gets too worked up about first-or-third POV as the “answer” to great fiction. A good novelist can use either one. However, I can tell you from experience that many first-person novels from beginning writers suffer from an overuse of the “I-verb” syndrome. (“I started… I walked… I ate… I moved… I handed… I answered…”) That endless parade of I-verbs creates a really dull novel. First-person fiction can be great, and it’s certainly become much more common in recent years, but in my view it’s harder to master than third person. 

    On a related note, someone asked, “Is it true most publishers don’t want first-person novels?”

    No, I don’t think that’s true at all. Again, writing an excellent first-person novel is simply harder to do well, so publishers probably have set the bar a bit higher. But some of the best fiction on the market is done in first person, and publishers still buy first-person novels. (Two favorite authors of mine, Ross Thomas and John D. MacDonald, wrote nearly everything from the first-person point of view. Bridget Jones Diary was a wildly successful first-person novel. I could give a bunch of other examples.)

    One author sent in this: “How many POV’s should a new novelist have in women’s contemporary fiction? I’ve heard we should use two for romance and one or two for general fiction. (I’m asking because my work in progress has one main character, but three other storylines that each require chapters from their POV. I’m wondering if that will make my novel harder to sell.)”

    Interesting question, since it seems to suggest there are hard and fast rules to be followed in contemporary fiction. While there are certainly rules to follow in genre literature (for example, if you’re writing contemporary romance, you’ve got to have

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  • February 25, 2013

    What does an acquisition editor do?


    Someone wrote to ask, “Can you explain what an acquisition editor is, and how that’s different from a regular editor?”

    As the name implies, the main role of an acquisitions editor is to acquire manuscripts for the publishing house. That means he or she knows what sort of books the house wants to do, and in the role will talk with agents, read the proposals that are sent in, perhaps go to conferences to meet face-to-face with authors, and evaluate everything in order to identify the manuscripts the house should pursue. Understand that most good acquisition editors are actively going out to hunt down authors and projects and ideas — not just sitting in an office and reacting to what’s sent to them.

    Another author asked a similar question: “Are people hired into that type of position? Or does one have to ‘work one’s way’up to do that? What is the usual period of time/experience required to do that?”

    Most new editorial hires start out as editorial assistants, working with an editor to assist with general office stuff. There’s not necessarily a major in college for becoming an editor, so we see a lot of English and Journalism majors, but also Business, History, Marketing, and Communications grads hired into the role. They learn the process of what a manuscript goes through in order to become a book. Then they are graduated to assistant editor, where they learn to actually edit. Then usually to associate editor, where they can begin to learn how to acquire. Eventually they become a full-fledged editor (in case you know of any editors who are only partially fledged). Most editors have two roles: to acquire books and edit them. At some houses they have “Acquisitions Editors,” whose sole job is to acquire new titles — in most cases others will do the actual editing of the manuscript. So yes, you work your way up. And the

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  • February 22, 2013

    To Enter or Not to Enter?


    What is the Benefit in a Contest?

    Today’s guest post is by Nancy J. Farrier, IRCA Coordinator

    Published authors may wonder about the advantages of entering a contest. As a finalist or winner, there are the accolades, possible increased sales, and a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, but without the win, does anyone care? What good comes from spending the money to put your “baby” in a contest?

    The Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award is a unique contest for authors published in Inspirational fiction. The judges for the IRCA are readers of inspirational fiction, but are not involved in the publishing industry. They don’t write, edit, or do book reviews. These judges simply love Inspirational fiction. They love to share books and authors with other readers. They are the readers authors want to reach.

    Our readers are from across the United States and as far away as Australia. Most are people of faith who attend church regularly, but not all of them do. Some of our readers appreciate a wholesome story, or are what some might term “seekers.” If the judge is a Christian, they will often think of someone when reading a book, someone your book might benefit.

    For the past thirteen years I have coordinated the IRCA. I read many comments from the judges. Comments that we promised to keep private, but are often so exciting I want to send them to the author as encouragement. I’ll share a few of those comments anonymously below:

    Tremendously wonderful read!…I had to have [the author’s] other books, so I ran out and bought them.

    …I would definitely recommend this book and will be looking into other books by the author…

    New author for me to read, but I will look for more of her books.

    As a published author, think of the possibilities for reaching new readers if you entered the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. Fans this excited would love telling everyone

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  • February 21, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Social Media Critiques, Part 11


    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.

    Continuing with the social media critiques! Again, I’m condensing my thoughts and BOLDING content that I feel hasn’t been said before.

    1. Cindy Scinto provided her website, blog and a few Facebook sites.

    • The website is very cluttered. I didn’t realize you had a top nav at first, because there was just so much to look at…and consequently, I had a brief moment in which I feared I had stumbled on a spam site. So the main point here is the site needs to be cleaned up, the ads removed, and a clear call to action provided for the visitor.
    • For your blog, I’d say your blurb against Winepress publishing may rub new visitors the wrong way. So be careful with that. The blurb was the first thing I looked at.
    • As for the blog content itself, all of the three posts were content that I could get elsewhere…so speaking as a potential reader, this doesn’t give me a real reason to visit this blog again. I want original stuff!
    • I feel your Facebook pages could be combined. They revolve around books that are essentially the same theme, just repackaged. I feel your “heart like mine” readers are similar to your “regifted” readers, and so putting the two together would mean those who buy Regifted would maybe then buy Heart Like Mine and vice versa.

    2. Megan Sayer provided her Website/Blog

    • I like this. Clean design. Clear purpose. Solid content. and photos!!
    • Clearly, this blog is more of a personal thing than it is a promotional tool…which is okay. I think at some point the fact that it’s a well-done personal blog can make it automatically
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  • February 19, 2013

    What fiction trends are coming and going?


    I’m trying to catch up on the hundreds of questions people have sent in. Someone wrote to say this: “The popularity in genres seems to go in cycles, with perhaps the exception of romance, which always seems to sell well. Where in this cycle do you see the historical fiction genre right now? In the near future?”

    Fiction goes through a cycle with publishers: produce some, watch it grow, produce more, produce too much, cut back, start selling again, produce some, watch it grow, etc. Right now one could argue that there are more historicals being sold than there used to be, but I agree with you — that’s simply a cycle. People love reading about other eras, so while we may be trending down a bit right now in some genres, it will trend back up. That’s how fiction works. In a lousy economy, people want a book that’s an escape to a simpler time, so historicals were doing well. Now that the economy is brighter, we’re seeing a swing back to more contemporaries. Suspense, which also had an explosion with the growth of e-books, seems to have been waning a bit, but since it’s cyclical, they will come back. 

    Another reader sent me this: “Is there a certain sub-genre of historical fiction (fantasy, romance, thriller, mystery) that you think is selling best now? And is historical fiction fading out?”

    A sub-genre that seems to be trending up is the romance novel with a strong suspense line. Another has been the romance with fantastic or supernatural elements. Some historical periods continue to sell, so there is renewed interest in the Edwardian and Victorian periods (thanks to Downton Abbey, an entire period of time that’s been overlooked is once again popular). And despite slowing, plenty of readers are still in love with the Amish and all things simple. Romance novels set in Texas seem

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  • February 18, 2013

    Should the agent tell me where he sent my manuscript?


    I dug into my “blog” file this weekend, and realized I’ve got a backup of more than 300 questions people have asked. Gulp. That means I could start today, take the next year responding to them, and still not get to everything. So… a change in plans for the next few weeks: I’m going to try and tackle several questions each day for a while, just to offer some answers and catch up a bit.

    To begin, someone sent me a note that read, “My agent won’t tell me who she sent my proposal to. She also doesn’t show me the rejection notices. Is that normal?”

    Not showing rejection notices has become normal. You need to understand that the days of editors sending long rejections to agents, detailing the perceived issues with a manuscript, went out with the Reagan Administration. It’s not uncommon to get a brief email that says, “No thanks” or “We looked at this and we’re not going to pursue it.” And frankly, there’s not much value in my forwarding those notes to one of my authors, unless I want to drive her into depression and a possible drinking binge. (On the rare times I receive a thoughtful reply, with notes on how the manuscript could be improved, I try to always pass that along to the author.) So tell your agent you’d like to know what people are saying — that’s a fair request. However, I’ll admit I don’t know why an agent wouldn’t show you a list of who’s looking at your proposal. I mean…it’s your proposal, so I wouldn’t think that would be a secret. You may want to ask your agent what the reasoning is behind that decision. I find it odd. I’m not saying she is necessarily wrong, but it’s definitely not the norm.

    Someone else wrote and asked, “Can an agent help me plan the marketing for my book?”

    Normally an

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