• February 14, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Social Media Critiques, Part 10


    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.

    If you weren’t a reader last fall, I offered to do free social media critiques. Around the holidays, I took a break from them…mostly because I felt I was saying the same things over and over. But I’d like to plow through the rest if I can.

    So, we’ll be picking these up here and there, though I’ll try to offer more condensed critiques (since again…most of the social media sites I’ve looked at struggle from the same issues…and we can recap those issues once the series is finished). I’ve also BOLDED comments that I felt were newer and would appeal to those who are reading these posts in an effort to better their online efforts.

    1. Laurie A. Green shared her website

    • This is a good example of a website for an unpublished author. You highlight your awards and how you’re active in the SFR community
    • However, there’s not much to look at, while there is a lot to read. Consider including some neat SF photos and such to break up the text.
    • There is a lot competing for readers’ attention on your top nav. Consider condensing a bunch of those tabs and try to focus on what readers will be drawn to, such as a clear link to the SFR Brigade site.
    • Lastly, your author photo comes across as a bit dated…I’d consider getting new photos taken 🙂

    2. Laura Droege’s Blog is a blog by…wait for it…Laura Droege:

    • Lots of good stuff here…a writing sample, well-written posts, etc. However, I found I had to dig around to determine your genre. So consider making that more clear.
    • Also, try adding more photos to your posts.
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  • February 13, 2013

    How can I become a freelance editor?


    Someone wrote this: “My friend wants to be a freelance editor. What advice would you have for her?” 

    Right now it’s a tough time to be a freelancer in book publishing. The publishing economy has been down, it’s hit publishers hard, and there are a lot of out-of-work editors and writers who are trying to freelance. (I just spoke with a publisher at a conference who told me she’s got a long list of good freelance editors she can’t use.) So that’s the bad news. The good news is that if your friend is willing to move away from strictly book publishing, there are plenty of opportunities. Every company on the planet is putting together content for their website, and somebody has to write and edit all those pages. Consider talking with businesses (or with the marketing and ad agencies that assist businesses) about providing writing and editorial help. 

    One thing that has long been true in publishing is that good copyeditors are hard to find (and even harder to keep, since they generally get bored and want to move on to substantive editing). If you’re well-grounded in grammar, can spell well, and have a basic sense of what makes writing work, you might consider taking a class in copyediting, either online or through a local college. Emerson University, long a leader in programs for those interested in publishing and communication, now offers a certificate in copyediting, with classes in grammar, clarity, fact-checking, indexing, and using bias-free language. 

    I think the best introduction to the role is still the Dummy’s book — Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies, which I liked so much I used as a textbook in the Intro to Editing class I taught. But there are other books you should be familiar with — The Chicago Manual of Style is the bible for book editing, while The AP Stylebook is the choice for magazines. So if you’re

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  • February 8, 2013

    How can I find my writing voice?


    I’ve had several questions recently on finding one’s voice… so I turned to good buddy Les Edgerton, author of the brilliant ebook Finding Your Voice…

    Writers’ Isolation

    I’ll wager that most of you reading this do something else to earn your daily bread. Which means that for most of your waking hours, you’re among non-writers. That’s probably true even if you’re self-employed or stay at home with those small citizens roaming around the living room who bear your last name and a smaller version of your nose. If your main source of social contact happens to be your significant other, he or she probably isn’t a writer either.

    Further, most of the people you work in the office or on the assembly line with—or break bread at noon with—or meet in the coffee shop after work with—more than likely aren’t writers—chances are they probably aren’t readers either. Oh, sure, casual readers, but not readers to the depth you’re a reader.

    What does this mean to you as a writer?

    Only this—it’s easy to begin to think of your own potential readership as being comprised of the same kinds of folks you see at work or at play or bearing a strong resemblance to the family next door. Non-writers and nonreaders or casual readers, mostly. Unless you lease a rent-controlled co-op in the Simon & Schuster building.

    And why wouldn’t you see your audience that way? After a while, it’s only natural to imagine most people in the country itself are pretty much like the folks you see every day.

    Well, most folks are . . . but those aren’t your readers, usually.

    Your reader is yourself.

    Write This Down!

    I’ll repeat: Your reader is yourself.

    Or someone much like yourself.

    Someone who shares your interests, knows just about the same things as you do, has close to the same intelligence, has a reading background and history similar to what you’ve
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  • February 7, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: 10 Prize Ideas for Giveaways or Contests


    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.

    Next week, I’ll revisit those social media critiques we were working through, but in them meantime, I thought it would be fun to list a smattering of prize ideas for giveaways…prizes that won’t cost you a fortune.

    1. Gift cards
    2. Coupons for ebooks (could be novellas, shorts, etc. that you have self-published)
    3. The chance to name a character (may only work for established authors, but the idea is the winner gets to name a character in an upcoming book)
    4. Twenty minute Skype call with the author
    5. Free book
    6. A book dedication
    7. A shout-out in the Acknowledgements section
    8. A “fan of the year” or “fan of the month” badge for their blog/website
    9. Book tchotchkes in the form of PDFs that you email to winners, such as paper dolls (for childrens or romance genres), detailed world maps (for speculative fiction genres), recipes (for historical genres, etc), paper crafts/Cubeecrafts (for childrens or speculative genres), basically anything that either appeals to readers’ children/grandchildren or to the inner nerd or hobbyist. This idea may cost a bit of money up front, but the long-term use makes it worth it.
    10. Themed gift baskets that tie in with your novel, such as gardening theme baskets for gardening cozy mysteries, etc.

    What else? What other great giveaway prizes can you think of (aside from huge doorbusters, like iPads).

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  • February 6, 2013

    How can I connect with literary agents?


    Someone wrote me to say, “I’ve got my manuscript done, I’ve run it by a professional editor, and I’m feeling ready to talk with literary agents. Can you suggest ways I connect with some good agents?”

    Sure I can.

    Go meet agents. Attend conferences, make appointments at their office, connect at a book show, etc. Don’t just focus on one person — try to get some exposure to a few literary agents. 

    Get to know and trust the agent. Again, I think there are a group of people who claim to be agents but don’t really know the business. So check their websites, read their blogs, ask around. 

    Find out if they like books and if they’re good with words. The best agents are word people first… and that’s an important point. Just because a guy has negotiated contracts doesn’t mean he can help you with ideas or writing or editing or selling.

    Ask who they represent, then go check with some of their authors. Just because she claims to be popular doesn’t mean her clients are happy. Go ask others. 

    Ask “how many books have you contracted in the past year?” You can also ask about which houses, which genres, etc. I’ve frequently suggested a number of questions you could ask agents. Check out some of my old posts on “agents” and make a list of questions that fit your particular situation. 

    Look for a full-time agent, not somebody who is part agent, part editor, part author, part Amway salesman. More and more I think this is true. Look, not everybody can be an agent. Just like not everybody can be an author, a copy-editor, a sales rep, or the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. So look for somebody who knows this job and is sold out to doing it, rather than somebody who is trying to represent people while also doing

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  • February 5, 2013

    What does an agent need to know?


    So after reading over my previous posts on agent/author relationships, i created the list below, and suggested authors think about what they might want in an agent. For example, while working in my doctoral program back in the 80’s at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), I had a Graduate Teaching Fellowship and spent a couple years as an assistant director in the Career Planning and Placement Office. My focus was on helping students graduating in the arts figure out their career plan. So I’ve got strengths in the area of career planning and management for writers and artists that a lot of folks don’t have. But there are plenty of things I’m NOT strong at, and I may or may not be a fit for a particular author. Each agent has experience (writing, editing, negotiations, production, contracts, etc) that he or she brings to bear as an agent. Knowing what you need or what you’re looking for

    Okay, with that as a starting point, here’s a checklist of things I think a literary agent needs to know…

    1. Recognize What Makes Great Writing
    2. Understands the Role of a Literary Agent
    3. Know how to Locate/Recognize New Clients
    4. Learn to Evaluate Submissions and Know How to Say “No” Politely
    5. Know How to Say “Yes” to Good Writers
    6. Understand  the Wording in Agency Agreements
    7. Be Able to Assist with Creating a Strong Proposal
    8. Recognize the Balance Between Writing, Idea, and Platform
    9. Understand the Core of What Makes Great Fiction
    10. Be Able to Explain the Nonfiction Template of “Problem & Solution” or “Question & Answer”
    11. Know How to Sell a Book
    12. Working with Writers: Know how to help them Create the Plan
    13. Working with Writers: Be able to Get Authors Focused
    14. Working with Writers: Help Authors Clarify Platforms, Purpose, and Perspective on their Careers
    15. Working with Writers: Develop Career Plans
    16. Working with Writers: Assist with the Writing Calendar
    17. Working with Writers: Help them Clarify
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  • February 4, 2013

    What's going on in the world of publishing?


    I normally just offer advice about publishing careers on this blog, but occasionally I feel a need to mention things happening that everyone in the industry is talking about. So let’s digress today on a couple quick items…

    1. The 2012 numbers are in, and they’re interesting… There were only three adult fiction titles last year that sold more than a million copies, and they were all written by E.L. James. (Soft core porn rules, apparently.) Those were also the only “romance” novels that hit the million mark. There were four children’s fiction titles that sold more than a million copies, and three of them were written by Suzanne Collins. (Hunger Games also rule — the fourth was the most recent Diary of a Wimpy Kid Who Would’ve Quickly Been Killed In The Hunger Games.) There were no nonfiction titles that hit the magic number (NO EASY DAY came very close), nor cookbooks, biographies, sci-fi novels, business titles… Not even a memoir. I’m still waiting for all the final numbers to show up, but it looks like this will be the smallest number of million-sellers we’ve had in years.

    2. And yet… book sales are doing fine. One study showed they were down 4% in 2012, another that they were up a bit more than 1%. Either way, overall book sales are holding fairly steady. There are more readers than ever before, and there are more books being produced than ever before — the numbers are just more spread out, with the vast quantities of ebooks now being offered at Amazon and B&N.com. So take heart — it’s still a great time to be a writer. We read all the time — on our Nooks & Kindles, on our laptops & Smartphones, on our email and web accounts. Don’t believe the gloomy people who keep preaching The End Of Publishing As We Know It.

    3. I have now had more

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  • February 1, 2013

    Jerry Jenkins, self-publishing, and the end of civilization as we know it


    I’ve had more than a dozen people write to ask me about the new self-publishing service Jerry Jenkins has set up through his company, CWG. I’ve looked into it, read the stories, studied the comments, and four thoughts have come to my mind.

    First, Jerry Jenkins is not a con man. I don’t understand the vitriol being leveled at a guy who wants to help authors get their books published, and make a buck while doing so. Some people in CBA are acting as though there’s been some breach of faith — as though this is a sign of the end-times, and the world’s most famous apocalyptic writer is behind it. Look, Jerry and I aren’t friends, but we’re certainly friendly — I’ve gotten to know him a bit over the years, and was at the literary agency that represented his LEFT BEHIND series that sold 70 million copies. It’s not like we’re hanging out together, and I have to leap to the defense of the guy… but give me a break — he’s made a pile of money, doesn’t need to bilk anyone, and has basically run his Christian Writers Guild as a service, not as a money-maker. I can tell you from firsthand experience that he’s honest and fair, and a much nicer guy than, say, me (who would be calling these people nasty names if they said those things about me). He’s not out to con anyone.

    Second, Jerry Jenkins is a businessman. His name and celebrity certainly draws in potential writers, and the long list of people who have participated in CWG classes, conferences, and training creates a perfect list for potential self-published authors. How is that unethical? (For the record, PW asked me for a quote about all of this, and I told them I didn’t have much to say. It’s pretty much the same as what Thomas Nelson did with Westbow, or what Rick

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  • January 31, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: How to Run a Successful Twitter Party


    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.

    So now that we know what Twitter parties are, here are some tips on how to make one a success:

    1. Set the parameters. When will the party take place? Who are the hosts? What are the prizes? What is the incentive to attend? Just like throwing any birthday party, baby shower or graduation open house, these questions need to be thought out beforehand. The more specific the answers, the better.
    2. Advertise like crazy. An entire marketing plan should be devised to advertise the party. You don’t want to just put it up on your blog and then Tweet it a few times and expect a huge turnout. Ask other bloggers to feature your official invite (have something like a digital flyer professionally designed) and create a retweet strategy that encourages Twitter users to share the news. (Maybe those who retweet your party invite Tweet get entered twice in one of the party drawings). Be creative, but be intentional. And don’t start advertising too far in advance. If the party is on Friday, begin advertising that Monday.
    3. Be a good host. This involves some organization and planning, but the idea is that you want to keep things moving. To do so…A) open and close the party on time, B) if a large party, don’t feel as though you have to be part of every conversation, but if a small party, feel free to greet participants by name, C) keep discussion moving, stay “on topic” and on time with your planned giveaways or featured guest interviews, D) don’t go dead on air–this means have the husband or the wife watch the kids during an evening party, and E) don’t
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  • January 28, 2013

    What should a good author/agent relationship look like?


    Someone wrote to ask, “Can you tell me what a good author/agent relationship should look like?”

    I can try. Keep in mind that there’s no “perfect agent style” that suits everyone. One writer needs an agent who is a strong editor-and-story-idea person, another writer needs an agent who is a contracts-and-negotiation person, and a third writer needs an agent who is counselor-and-chief-supporter. It’s why I always encourage authors to think carefully about what they need in a literary agent. I consider myself a good agent, having done this job for a longtime, contracted a lot of books, and developed a good track record of success. But I’ll be the first to say I’m not the agent for everybody. My style doesn’t fit every author, nor can I provide everything each author needs. So sometimes I’ll meet a writer whose work I like, but we’ll both feel the vibe is wrong. We have to get along personally as well as professionally. Other times the author has expectations I know I can’t meet (such as wanting me to edit their entire manuscript). So finding a “good” agent is like finding a “good” friend — what works for you might not work for your neighbor.

    A good author/agent relationship is usually one in which expectations are clear, and the agent helps the author succeed in those areas they’ve decided to focus on. It might be story development, or editing and fine-tuning a manuscript, or support and encouragement, or career management, or contract advice, or… the list is as varied as authors want to make it. If you don’t really know what you need, you’ll find yourself just going toward someone you like, or someone your friends like.

    Keep in mind that most working literary agents come from one of four backgrounds. They are either (1) a former editor, so they have strong words skills, or (2) a former writer, so they understand

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