• January 10, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: Make an Offer They Can’t Refuse


    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.

    Well, with a new year, comes a new me. So say “hello” to my more current photo.

    This week, I wanted to share something that I have found particularly effective when it comes to growing platform…

    Do you remember those months ago when I offered Free Social Media Critiques?

    And then do you recall, if you follow my Facebook group, the other week when I gave Free One-Liner Critiques?

    I did both of these things to be nice. And to gain trust. But I mostly did them to grow my platform.

    Let’s look at the numbers.

    I received roughly 115 comments on my Social Media Critique promo. That’s around 100 people (some commented more than once) who not only interacted with me online, but who were then driven to come back every Thursday in hopes that their site would be reviewed. (I’m still working through the list…just taking a break for now).

    The post was shared quite a bit on Twitter and through other venues, and the coolest part is that it attracted NEW readers to the blog. In other words, in exchange for a bit of my time, I got new readers, positioned myself as an expert, and got my name out among people who are not closely linked to me. Pretty cool.

    (Not to mention, I got free blog fodder for the rest of my life).

    Now, the Facebook promo was even more of a success.

    I had around 650 likes before the promo. In days, that number jumped to 750. My post was shared a whopping 86 TIMES on Facebook, and even more so elsewhere. It saw 145 comments and was viewed by

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  • January 9, 2013

    Are writer conferences a worthwhile investment?


    Someone asked, “Are writers conferences worthwhile for a beginning novelist? If so, how can I get the most out of a conference?”

    I think a writing conference is one of the best investments a newer writer can make. (The best other ideas? A class that forces you to write, reading great writers, and participating in an active critique group.) A writers conference allows you to meet other writers and find out how they do things. It’s a great chance to network with authors, meet editors, get introduced to agents, and discover what’s going on in the industry. Consider a writing conference an introduction to publishing — something that’s hard to get anywhere else. Talking with several published authors might be one of the most effective ways of learning the process of moving from pre-published to published. You’ll find workshops on specialty topics that you would be hard-pressed to find a book on, as well as people who have walked the path ahead of you. Besides, a conference is usually a fun time, hanging out with other people who love words. 

    There are good conferences all over the country, and spread throughout the year. Some organizations sponsor conferences (Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers have two of the best writing conferences in the country), many universities have writing conferences (check your local colleges), and there are plenty of independent conferences at hotels, retreat centers, and on campuses. Simply googling “writing conferences” will get you enough information to get started. I think every new writer will benefit from a conference.

    Some thoughts on getting the most out of a conference… Plan out a schedule before you get there. Make selections about the workshops and classes you want to attend, and if it turns out not to be great, feel free to change to another class. Set some basic goals for what you want to accomplish at the conference —

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  • January 8, 2013

    Should I start with a small publisher to get the attention of a large one?


    Someone wrote to ask, “Do you think it’s a good idea to start with a smaller publisher and try to have some success, as a way of getting the attention of a larger publisher?”

    That’s not only a good idea, it’s pretty much the pattern writers follow in today’s market. (Occasionally we’ll see a great novelist get discovered and published by a large house, but that’s become the exception instead of the rule.) The majority of authors are starting small, working with the publisher to sell their book, building a reputation for themselves, and then later moving to a larger house  — or sometimes simply remaining with the smaller house. 

    Of course, to do that, the best thing an author can do is write a great book. Greatness gets discovered, in my view. If you write a great book, readers are going to find you eventually. I’ve seen that happen time after time. But whether you remain with a smaller line or move to a larger house is probably going to be part of the “career” conversation you have with your agent. Some writers have done very well at smaller publishing houses, and prefer feeling like the big fish in a smaller pond. You might be much more comfortable with the editing style of a niche publisher, or the familiarity of the staff, or smaller sales expectations that come with a small house. Don’t think that landing at a large publisher is going to be a dream come true — it might be great, but larger houses have unique issues (for example, you can become writer #37 on their list of top authors). A large publisher may offer you access to wider distribution, but that access may not amount to much — and we’ve all seen authors get swallowed up by a big house and just disappear. Bigger can be great, but it’s not always better. Nor will it always

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  • January 7, 2013

    Does winning a contest help a prospective author?


    Someone wrote to ask, “Do you think it helps a beginning novelist to enter a contest or win an award?”

    It’s hard to say. Certainly it can’t hurt that an author wins a Faulkner Award, or a short story writer is handed an O. Henry Prize. Doubtless that causes the publisher to pay a bit more attention to the proposal, assuming the contest is widely respected. People in the industry appreciate the level of work it takes to win a prestigious award. 

    But does it actually help the publisher decide whether or not to publish your novel? No. That work will have to stand on its own. Winning an award will get you noticed, and maybe help get you read by an editor, but it doesn’t make your book deal a slam dunk. I’ve had award-winners send me proposals that were well-written but not salable, so while I appreciated their talent, it didn’t translate to a book deal. Still, it’s not a bad thing for a  debut novelist to read “Winner of the ____ Prize” on the cover.

    Perhaps one of the issues is the award itself — there are some great contests with prestige to them, but there are also contests that don’t mean much at all. (Several writing conferences have their own awards, and in my view that just means the winner is “the best of the relatively small group of people who attended.”) I’m not putting them down, only noting that winning “best book” at the North Dakota Writing Conference won’t translate as having much prestige to an editor in New York. Meanwhile, winning the Golden Heart at RWA doesn’t mean you’re sure to land a romance book contract, but at least it means you were read and liked by significant people in the industry. So evaluating the contest prestige is necessary. 

    I know a number of writers are thrilled with the Genesis Award handed out by

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  • January 2, 2013

    How are literary agent's roles changing in the new world of publishing?


    I’ve had a number of people write to me in response to my recent post about 2013 publishing predictions, asking how I felt the role of literary agents is changing. It used to be that an agent basically offered four benefits: (1) an editing/sounding board for writing and ideas; (2) access to publishers; (3) contract and statement assistance; and (4) some type of career advice. There are a bunch of other ideas people bring up (such as “maximize the advance!” and “be the tough guy when things get ugly!”), and no doubt several other iterations of the ideas above, but I think those are the four big content areas in which agents have generally served.

    But now we’re in a new era. The way books are produced, marketed, delivered, and sold to readers has changed considerably over the past few years. The sales channels are completely altered. Publishers have overhauled their staffing and methods. New jobs exist that didn’t used to exist, and old ones have faded out of existence. The advent of digital publishing has not just created this new product called “e-books,” but have helped reshape the entire industry. So it only makes sense that a literary agent shouldn’t be doing his or her job the same way it was being done ten years ago. To that end, I thought I’d try to offer thoughts on how I see an agent’s role in contemporary publishing.

    First, a good agent is still doing editing, but perhaps even more book and project concepting. Idea development and packaging are an essential part of the role now. Your agent needs to be talking with you not just about “how to do an ebook,” but how various projects and packages fit into your overall business plan.

    Second, I think the notion of an agent giving an author access to publishers has evolved into an agent as interactor — networking with various publishing types,

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  • January 1, 2013

    How did you get started in your writing career?


    Someone wrote and asked, “How did you go about the business of becoming a writer?” Since it’s a holiday and the start of new year, I thought this would be a good time to re-tell that story. 

    For years I tried writing in dribs and drabs, trying to get an actual “writing career” going. I had started working in publishing as a copyeditor at a magazine, and had done quite a bit of magazine writing, plus some newspaper writing and lots of chapter editing, but I could never get over the hump and get my own book done. So I edited, and wrote some, and worked for magazines and newspapers and journals, sometimes running the publications for organizations. Then two articles I stumbled across in the course of my reading changed my writing life.

    The first was an interview with Thomas Wolfe in Esquire magazine. Wolfe, the author of such books as The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and The Man in Full, was shown resplendent in a white suit, hat, and spats. The caption read, “Thomas Wolfe on his way to the office,” or some such thing. Notably, his office was in his home. Wolfe would get up, get dressed, and go into a spare bedroom to write — just as though he were heading off to an important publishing luncheon in a downtown New York restaurant. In the article, Wolfe explained that, to him, writing was a business. So he treated it as a business. He would begin writing at nine every morning, and would write until noon. Then he’d take ninety minutes off for lunch. Wolfe noted that he didn’t wait for inspiration to strike him – instead, he would sit down, read the last few pages of what he’d written the day before, and begin to type. By simply approaching writing as a business, he got much more done. After lunch, he returned

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  • December 31, 2012

    My Publishing Predictions for 2013


    Okay, time for my big publishing predictions for 2013…

    1. Some of the large publishers will buy up the smaller micro-publishers who have succeeded in niche markets. (This only makes sense. Penguin/Random House are merging, and want to expand their reach. Hachette is perhaps the most forward-thinking of the companies, and must see the opportunity. It’s possible HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster will combine forces, and they are two companies who have always sought to maximize niche markets. MacMillan does as well. So look for some of those guys who started in their garage a couple years ago to cash out.) 

    2. Literary agents will re-define themselves. (This has already begun to happen with some multi-person agencies. The growth of e-books and the opportunity authors have to self-publish means an agent, to demonstrate value, has to prove he or she can assist with self-publishing, with marketing and sales planning for a wide variety of projects, with career development for authors who are working with traditional publishers as well as publishing their own books, with contract evaluations in an age of significant intellectual property rights changes, and with business management. An author isn’t just a writer any more — he or she is a self-proprietary business person, and good agents will re-define themselves in order to assist with that change.) 

    3. E-book royalties will grow. (E-publishers are already paying in the 50% neighborhood, so traditional publishers are going to have to be competitive. I can see one of the Big Six boosting e-royalties to 30%.)

    4. Several of the major and mid-major publishers will move to strictly digital catalogs and royalty statements. (Think of it: At many of the larger houses, they’re still hiring people to print off stacks of paper and stuff them into envelopes. Welcome to the 80’s! This is a change that’s way overdue. And there’s limited value in expensive book catalogs any more — a digital
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  • December 21, 2012

    Is it legal to strangle my publisher?


    Someone just wrote to say, “I can’t believe it! I spent an entire week writing a piece for a digital magazine that insisted they needed it on a tight deadline, skipped my daughter’s play, ignored family meals, then stayed up all hours writing. I got it done, turned it in, and the publisher is saying they’ve decided to run it… next month! Will I go to jail if I shoot him?”

    Ah, the joys of the writing life.

    True story: A publisher once hired me to do a fast-fix on a book. “I need this by Thursday morning,” he told me. “If I don’t have it by Thursday, I could be out of business.” His exact words. 

    So I took it, banged away, and met my deadline. I stayed up all night two nights in a row, grabbing coffee and blearily going through the manuscript line by line, fixing the problems and getting the book ready for publication. I finished at 4 Thursday morning, grabbed a couple hours of shut-eye, then drove an hour-and-a-half to the publisher’s office in order to turn it in by hand as they opened their doors. Mission accomplished. The publisher gave me a hearty thanks as I set the disk on his desk, and I headed to a coffee shop to try and stay awake for my drive home.

    The following Wednesday, I’m at a breakfast meeting in the city, and who do I run into but Mr. Publisher. “Hey,” I say to him, “I haven’t heard from you — what did you think of the manuscript?”

    He looked at me for a second with a blank look, then said, “Oh…you know, I haven’t gotten to that one yet.”

    So I strangled him. Right there on the spot. Shoved several of those heavy restaurant pancakes they’re always serving down his evil throat. (Okay, not really. But I wanted to.)

    The publishing business. It simply works

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  • December 20, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: 5 Down and Dirty Ideas for Marketing Your Book


    Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda 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.

    I want to take it easy this week and next as I give a chance for all the Thursdays with Amanda readers to catch up on last week’s post which highlighted ALL of my 2012 platform-building blog posts. So I thought I’d spend this week sharing 5 Ideas to Market Your Book. They’re going to be a bit random! But it’s all about thinking outside the box.


    1. You know that rack of magazines at your gym? Leave copies of your book there. And you know the front desk at your gym? Ask about leaving a flyer with a download password for a free/discounted digital copy of your book. I mean have you seen how many people read while working out?! It’s crazy.

    2. Ask your local library to feature local authors (if they don’t already).

    3. Do a Google search for book clubs in your area. Ask if they’d be willing to read your book if you provided some sort of incentive (a party at the end where they can chat about it with you, free copies, etc).

    4. Get your publisher to update your book’s Amazon and Barnes & Noble pages to reflect the holidays. An opening line that reads “The perfect gift for those who love mystery and intrigue!” speaks to your target reader and it also gives gift-givers something to go off of.

    5. Host a Twitter party in the days after Christmas. That’s when new Kindle and Nook owners are going to be looking for great content to put on their devices! So make sure you’re creating buzz.

    What are some of your

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