• January 24, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: What is a 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.

    Some readers of this blog have mentioned that they don’t really know what Twitter Parties are, let alone how to run one. So let’s unpack this very useful promo strategy and then next week we can go over what makes Twitter Parties successful.

    A Twitter party is exactly what it sounds. It is an online party that takes place on Twitter.

    Here’s how it works…

    An author or a company or someone who wants to promote awareness or buzz for their product, sends out party invitations through blogs, forums, Facebook, etc. They give the party a specific time, as well as a hashtag, and they advertise prizes.

    Those who want to participate (usually to win free stuff), merely need to log on to Twitter during the hours of the party and begin watching for that particular hashtag (they can do a hashtag search on Twitter, which will pull show them the Tweets that include that hashtag in real time, or they can set it up through whatever Twitter program they use to filter Tweets). But anyway, the idea is that people join the party using the provided hashtag.

    The host(s) of the party will keep things moving along, chatting with participants and running giveaways and interviews with featured guests. The key, though, is that every Tweet must have the party’s hashtag within it. Otherwise, the Tweets won’t make it to the party-goers’ feeds.

    Still with me?

    Eventually, after an hour or so of fun and chatting and giveaways and interviews, the party ends and the hosts sign off.

    Why does this work?

    It gets people talking about whatever you want them to talk about! Let’s say the focus

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  • January 23, 2013

    Why do you think a critique group is important?


    Someone sent this: “You often encourage writers at conferences to join a critique group. But I joined one at a conference last year, and I didn’t think it helped much at all. I’m published, nobody else in the group is, and I didn’t really feel the others in the group gave me much help or offered a lot of insight. Why do you think a critique group is important?”

    Well, if you’re a good writer, and you’re in a critique group with bad writers, I think it’s fair to question if that’s beneficial. Perhaps that’s why most writers, once they attain some measure of success, often leave their critique groups and look for a writing partner or mentor.

    HOWEVER, I’d have three thoughts for you.

    First, there’s probably value in listening to what others have to say, even if you’re not sure they have great craft. Some excellent writing teachers are just okay writers — their lack of craft doesn’t mean they have nothing to say on the topic. So consider at least going through the process for a while. As we Scots say, “Learn to unpack a rebuke.”

    Second, look for a better writer in the group, so that you’ve got one person in the group you can listen to, and whom you can help. Then pay attention to what they have to say, and do your best to try and help him or her improve. That will build your trust.

    Third, by all means search for one writer (perhaps at a conference or workshop) who is ahead of you a bit. Find a writer who is a bit farther down the path, and develop a friendship. That would give you someone to go to, to share your work with, and to offer you advice. You’ll have to be patient with this one — nearly every good writer is bombarded with requests for help (though it’s usually “help by

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  • January 22, 2013

    What do you expect of your clients? What do you do for your clients?


    Someone asked, “As an agent, what do you expect of your clients? What do you do for your clients?”

    1. I expect the authors I represent to write well, be creative, work hard at the craft, meet their deadlines, get along with people, work extremely hard at the marketing side of publishing, be my friend, and be willing to work with me on the “career” side of writing. I figure most of my clients will stay with me for years, and we’ll watch their careers grow and change over time. Part of the “get along with people” aspect means they will be flexible and understand when life intrudes or things take longer than they expect — publishing is a slow business. Sometimes things happen that cause all of us to wait, or to be disappointed, or to shake our heads in wonder. But the expectations are fairly clear, I think. And they don’t always happen. Sometimes I disappoint people. Or they get tired of waiting. But, generally speaking, that’s the big picture. 

    2. There’s a misunderstanding that there is somehow a “right” relationship between an author and an agent. The fact is, every author is unique. Some need a lot of dialogue; some need little. Some want the agent to read their work; others couldn’t care less if the agent reads it. Some want to bat around ideas; others really don’t want to hear an agent’s respond to their ideas. Some want to go in-depth discussing contracts; others will say “don’t explain the contract to me, just show me where to sign.” So how the business happens will depend on the unique relationship between author and agent. There isn’t one “right” process I’ll have for working with an authors — which is why I’m not going to be the agent for everyone. (You can’t be friends with everyone — sometimes you meet someone, and the two of you just don’t

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  • January 21, 2013

    Do you enjoy being an agent the most at this point?


    Someone sent in this: “You’ve been involved in just about every aspect when it comes to the publishing world. Do you enjoy being an agent the most at this point?”

    I love agenting. Right now I can’t imagine ever leaving agenting to do anything else in publishing — and that answer comes out of a lot of publishing experience. I’ve made my living as a writer, editor, agent, and publisher. But there’s no question that my favorite role has been that of agent. Why?

    First, because I love books and words, and have enjoyed making my living with them. As an agent, I get a chance to talk to a lot of authors about their book ideas and their writing. I have the opportunity to explore a lot of great ideas, to brainstorm stories, and to offer my completely bone-headed opinions on things I know nothing about.

    Second, I have a heart for mentoring. It’s my nature to work with a small group of people and talk with them about how to move forward, so I enjoy the personal side of this job.

    Third, I have a natural ability with strategic planning. When I was in my doctoral program at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), I did my graduate teaching fellowship as the assistant director of the Career Planning and Placement office. That helped me know how to bring to bear the principles of organizational development to an individual’s career choices. (The U of O is strong in the arts, but didn’t have much in terms of career assistance. My job, years ago, was to help develop some tools for those people.) I frequently hear agents talk about the importance of authors doing career planning, but it really seems like to many of them that means, “You need a book deal.” Of COURSE the author needs a book deal — that’s why they signed on with an agent. For

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  • January 18, 2013

    A Guest Post: What I’d Change About My Writing Journey


    Today’s guest post is by author Gina Conroy.



    You hear it all the time when people are trying to make sense of their trials in life…

    “The struggles only made me stronger. I wouldn’t change a thing.” Maybe you’ve even said it to try and ease the pain of your writing journey.

    While the first part of that statement may be true, struggles do make us stronger, to be honest, you wouldn’t change a thing? Really? Oh, I don’t know. I can probably go back through my entire life and finds things that I would change. But let’s focus on my publishing journey.

    Would I change the fact I thought I had to shelve my writing for ten years while I raised my kids?

    Yep, I wish I would’ve found the support of other writing women and organizations like ACFW sooner so I could slowly improve my craft instead of diving in like a mad woman (and messing up my priorities) when I thought the timing was right. Thankfully for young moms today, the internet is overflowing with helpful writing blogs and support groups. You don’t have to wait to write. I wish I would’ve had the resources ten years ago that you have today.

    Would I change the fact I struggled to find the balance between writing, homeschooling, and life?

    And still struggle to find the time to write while constantly feeling pulled in every direction? You betcha. It would’ve been much easier to figure it all out instantly and not have to continue to struggle in this area, but then again, I wouldn’t have founded Writer…Interrupted, a website where I encourage other busy, interrupted writers trying to balance life and this writing thing.

    Would I change seven years of writing rejections and heartache? 

    Okay, that’s a no brainer! But it only made me stronger, right?

    What about changing the years I spent doubting my abilities 

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  • January 17, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Dispelling the Top 5 Facebook Myths


    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.


    Note: this is a professional Facebook page. This is a personal profile.

    Every once in awhile I receive some questions regarding professional Facebook pages. You see, there are a lot of rumors surrounding the professional page, and many will claim that it’s self-sabotage to switch over (from personal to professional pages). But I entirely disagree.

    So let’s take some time to dispel the top 5 Facebook myths when it comes to using the site for marketing and promotions.

    Myth #1: The Professional Facebook Page is bad because it only shows your updates to 1/3 of your fanbase.

    This isn’t necessarily true. Your fans have the power to choose how often they see your posts. If they want to view every post, they can select that option. If they only want to view the most popular posts, they can opt for that one.

    But let’s get to the bottom of this myth. This statement is making the assumption that all of your posts in your personal profile are seen by ALL of your friends. This is not true. Go to your personal Facebook profile and think of a friend that you haven’t heard or seen much of lately. You know, one of those people that you wonder if maybe they’ve unfriended you. Now go look them up. Chances are, they’ve been posting quite frequently! But you haven’t seen their posts. Why? Because not only do you have the power to filter your feeds, Facebook sometimes selects which posts you view on your news feed and also which posts appear on the little scrolly thing in the upper righthand corner of your account. And sometimes, you

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  • January 16, 2013

    What are the best steps to take when marketing my book?


    Someone wrote and said this: “I have a nonfiction book releasing soon. When it comes to marketing my book, what is the wisest step I can take? Should I invest in a bunch of marketing books? Take a class in marketing? Or should I simply hire a public relations firm to do it for me? I’m just trying to figure out if hiring a marketing company means I get a generic plan, and if I’d be better to do it myself. What do you recommend?”

    Here’s my thinking… 

    First, nobody is as committed to the message of your book as you are. Nobody knows the book as well as you do. Nobody has as much riding on the success of your book as you. So for that reason, I’d say that learning how to do your own marketing is probably the best step most authors can take. That doesn’t mean you have to do all of it yourself — it just means that you need to understand that you can’t off-load all of the marketing tasks and expect it to go as well as if you’re involved in it. So yes, I think one of the things you can do as an author is to learn about the process of marketing. 

    Second, there are a number of resources you can turn to, and there are numerous excellent marketing tools you can purchase (starting with some general Dummies guides, and moving to very specific marketing tools). Books on marketing are simply a low-cost way to enter the field. You get to glean from a lot of experienced people, and you’ll find both big-picture concepts as well as immediate steps to take. So I’d start by getting a handle on the field of book marketing. For a bit more money, you could order the CD series “Become a Bestselling Author.” That will help give you a step-by-step approach to creating a marketing

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  • January 15, 2013

    How much money does a publisher invest in marketing my book?


    Someone wrote to ask, “In your experience, how much money does a publisher invest in marketing a book? How much should an author spend?”

     Whenever a large publisher decides to contract a book, they create a P&L (profit and loss) sheet that contains all the numbers involved — the cost of ink and paper and binding, the cover costs, the author advance, copyediting, shipping, overhead expenses, etc. One of the numbers on most P&L’s is “marketing costs.” Of course, at the front end of a deal the publisher doesn’t really know how much they’re going to spend on advertising or publicity. The P&L may be filled out two years before the actual books hit store shelves, and no one is really sure what the marketing commitment will be. So many of them plug in $1 per hardcover book, based on expected sales.

    In other words, if the publisher expects to sell 50,000 copies, the initial marketing budget will be $50,000. For books being flipped to trade paper, they may only budget fifty cents per book. For mass market, it’s even less. From a business point of view, that’s a fairly good rule of thumb for authors to know — the publisher will invest about a dollar per book for marketing a hardcover title. If the book in question is from a heavy hitter (say, Stephenie Meyer’s next novel), that number will obviously increase, and extra steps will be taken to promote the book. Be aware that you may not be able to easily figure out where all the money went — space ads and radio commercials have a set cost, but co-op fees, front-of-store placement, and shared advertising space can quickly add up and make spending on single titles hard to track. Still, that gives you a baseline for understanding how large publishers create a marketing budget.

    Medium-sized publishers are more apt to simply have a figure they’ll spend —

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  • January 14, 2013

    As an author, how can I build a better platform?


    This past weekend, someone wrote to say, “You have often talked about ‘platform’ on this blog. How do you define a platform? And what do you suggest I do in order to build a platform for myself as an author?”

    An author’s platform is the collection of opportunities a writer has with potential readers. So, in many ways, a platform is simply a number. Think of it this way…

    Does he have a TV show? If so, how many viewers does he have? That’s a number. Is she on the radio? If so, how many listeners does she have? That’s a number. Does he write a column for a newspaper or magazine? If so, what’s the readership? That’s a number. Does she blog? If so, how many people read her each month? That’s a number. Every opportunity an author has is reducible to a number.

    Does he have a busy speaking schedule? If so, how many people does he speak to over the course of a year? How often? How big are the venues? Do his speeches get recorded and sold to listeners? If so, how many copies sell in a year? Is she a recognized expert in a particular area? Do people recognize her name? Does he have a popular website? Is she a regular writer for an e-zine? Does he often get contacted by the media? Do people recognize her name? 

    Some numbers are easy to add up. Others are considerably harder — but it’s usually not that difficult to come up with the number of people a writer can reach through his or her current opportunities. Let’s call each one a “touchpoint” — an opportunity for the writer to touch a reader in some way that is already established. Perhaps they listen to her on the radio, or read her blog, or go to hear her speak at conferences… for each person they reach, the writer

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  • January 11, 2013

    How can I make a living as a collaborative writer?


     Someone asked, “What advice can you give those of us who want to make a living as collaborative writers?”

    You may not know this, but I made my living as a collaborative writer for years. I was successful at it, and learned some important lessons, so I’m always happy to talk with writers who want to do some collab work. There are a couple lessons I learned…

    First, writing speed matters. You see, not everybody works at the same pace. I can bang out words by the pound. It’s obvious Cecil Murphey can. Susy Flory, David Thomas, Mike Yorkey, Steve Halliday, Kenny Abraham, and the other folks in the business who make their living as collaborative writers all write with speed. (True story: When Harvest House Publishers came to me and asked if I’d write a “Y2K” book, I called a writing friend and we banged out 256 pages in 17 days. It sold more than 60,000 copies and, let’s face it, SAVED WESTERN CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT. If it hadn’t been for my book, we’d doubtless all be sitting in the dark and learning Chinese right now. You can thank me later.)

    Anyway, most collaborators can bang out words quickly. And not every writer is built like that. It’s certainly not a bad thing if your writing speed is a bit slower, it’s just that you’ll have a harder time making a go of it as a collaborative writer, since being able to produce a lot of words quickly is essential. I find that most writers have a natural pace, and if you try to speed them up too much, they lose focus and quality. Writing fast is probably a necessity for most full-time writers, but it’s not some sort of saintly gift. Many great authors need adequate time. Lisa Samson, one of the best literary novelists in the business and an author I’ve long represented, is

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