• December 19, 2012

    What do agents look for (and why won't they take on my screenplay or poetry)?


    Someone asked, “What’s the first thing you look for in a proposal?”

    Voice. I’m a sucker for great voice in a writer. If I see great voice, I’m almost always willing to take the next step with an author. 

    Another wrote to ask, “As an agent, do you ever ‘go after’ an author? I mean, do you see a person you think has good book potential, then try to track them down?”

    Very rarely. I mean, it happens occasionally, but not often. I was in the air on September 11, had to make an emergency landing, saw first-hand the things going on in the air and at airports, and was emotionally impacted by the events of that day. So a couple days later, when Patti and I were watching the President speak, we saw him introduce the very poised Lisa Beamer. I turned to Patti and said, “She could do a great book.” So I started trying to connect with her, spoke to her pastor about how to handle media requests, and put her in touch with a publicist to help her manage all the people approaching her. Eventually Lisa and I met at her home, talked things through, and started shaping a book. I brought in Kenny Abraham, who did a fabulous job working with Lisa on her manuscript. That book hit #1 on the New York Times list, and was the bestselling nonfiction book of the year. So, yeah, having an agent seek out an individual can happen… but not often. People with the platform of a Lisa Beamer don’t show up every day. Besides, most agents are seeing pretty good proposals on a regular basis, so there isn’t much of a need to chase anyone down. 

    Someone noted, “It seems like agents either sell manuscripts or screenplays. Is it too much to ask one agent to do both? If I decide to write a screenplay, do I

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  • December 18, 2012

    An agent won't talk to me unless I have a deal?


    An author wrote me to say, “Many publishing houses will not accept manuscripts from un-agented authors, but many good agents will not accept manuscripts from unpublished authors. How then do I solicit an agent?”

    This is the common conundrum faced by beginning writers. You can’t get a publishing deal unless you have an agent, but you can’t get an agent unless you have had a publishing deal. My response? You’re screwed. But that’s the writer’s life.

    The best way to find an agent is still to approach the problem professionally. First, write a great manuscript. Next, do some research. Find out who represents the sort of thing you write. Try to figure out a way to meet and talk, if at all possible. Go to a conference or two and try to meet the agents you’ve discovered. See if you have a mutual friend who can arrange an introduction. Write to them and ask them to take a look at your work. Be persistent, but not a pest. And be professional. Every agent I know is interested in seeing a great manuscript, even from a new writer. It’s true that it’s harder for a newbie to get started, but that’s true in any field — it’s hard for a new musician to get bookings, or a new painter to get into galleries, or a new life insurance salesman to land clients.

    So one word about new authors: Make sure you’re really good. You see, the majority of stuff I see from newer authors isn’t turned down because the writer is new; it’s turned down because the writing isn’t all that great. I see proposals all the time that are about 60% done, and they’re asking me to consider it before it’s ready. Don’t assume you’re a genius just because your mom (or spouse, or best friend, or priest) told you so. Get some professional opinions, listen to others, and become

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  • December 17, 2012

    Is it worth approaching a literary agent?



    Someone wrote to ask this: “I read that new authors should not bother submitting to agents. One famous author’s blog claims that a beginning writer doesn’t really want an agent, since most (if not all) of the money paid on a book will go to the agent. Would you say that is true or false?”


    False. Unquestionably false. Most new authors don’t have the experience or the relationships to get their work in front of editors, so they have a hard time selling their words. Most will find that a good agent will help you get your work ready to show, then get it in front of the right people (and if it doesn’t sell, offer advice on how to self-publish it successfully). And an agent is going to be paid 15% of the deal — the other 85% is going to be paid to the author. That should always be true. I’m thinking you might have misunderstood what that famous author was saying on his or her blog.

    One note: There are some fake “book doctors/agents” who charge fees to offer editorial assistance, ask for a check to have a career planning meeting, even charge something extra to take your proposal out to publishers. (I know of one author who spent $35,000 for this sort of “help.”) If the agent is charging you fees, chances are it’s a scam. Walk away.

    Someone else asked, “Are agents willing to look at manuscripts if they come recommended by authors they already represent?”

    Almost every agent is willing to look at the manuscripts that come recommended by current clients. Just make sure the established author has really read your work and is willing to say, “I genuinely think this new writer has talent.” All of us get some projects sent to us from people who are owed a favor. And I’m always ready to look at friends of my current

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  • December 15, 2012

    Will being young keep me from getting published?


    One writer wrote to say, “I’m only twenty. How much, if at all, does my young age affect how seriously agents and editors will consider my fiction manuscript?”

    When I look at a manuscript, I generally review the words first. I always figure I have to like the writing before we explore much of anything else. Most agents and editors will approach things that way, I think — so they’ll have no idea how old you are when they take that first look at your proposal. (In fact, I’m wondering why I’d need to know an author’s age… most writers don’t include that in their proposal.) So at least initially, your age isn’t going to matter much at all. What will matter is the idea and the writing.

    If it’s fiction, the writing will matter first. If it’s nonfiction, they’ll probably review the idea first, then look at your writing. If they don’t like it, you’ll get a rejection notice and that will be the end of it — nobody will even know your age. But if they like your project, they’ll start looking at your platform and how you’d go about supporting your book. That’s when I suppose your age could matter. The publisher is basically want to know if you can help them market and sell your book. And this system is pretty well the same whether you are twenty or fifty or eighty.

    That said, there’s a practical matter that needs to be brought up: Most twenty-year-olds don’t have enough life experience to create a good book. I’m sorry if that sounds impolite, but I’ve found it to be true. I think there is a depth that comes with age and experience, and it’s why there are almost no successful novelists in their early twenties, and even fewer nonfiction writers. They normally don’t yet have the maturity to know their own voice or bring their experience to

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  • December 13, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: How To Grow Your Author Platform…2012 blog posts


    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.

    Assuming that the world will NOT end and that 2013 is YOUR YEAR to get things together and develop (or further develop) that coveted author platform everyone keeps talking about, I figured I’d put together an index of all my posts this past year.

    The catch? You aren’t allowed to casually skim it. I want you reading the ones that jump out at you while you come up with a goal list of

    10 Things I WILL Do in 2013 to Grow My Author Platform

    2013 is your year! Make the most of it. Your career will thank you.

    How it all started

    Growing Platform Through Articles

    Growing Platform Through Blogging

    Growing Platform Through Conferences

    Growing Platform Through Ebooks

    Growing Platform Through Facebook

    Growing Platform Through Goodreads

    Growing Platform Through Pinterest

    Growing Platform Through Public Speaking

    Growing Platform

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  • December 12, 2012

    Memorable Words


    Kate wrote and asked, “How can I make my nonfiction memorable?”

    I can think of a handful of tips…

    1. Rely on “story.” How many times have you sat through a church service, listened to a good sermon, and left without remembering the pastor’s points, yet having his illustration stuck in your mind? The world revolves around story. It’s why you can turn on a TV anywhere, 24/7, and find stories. It’s how we come to understand ourselves and our world. So offer your reader a story, not just solid content. Give them a story that illustrates your points, and your writing will be much more memorable.

    2. Pick up the pace. After you’ve written your chapter or article, go back through it and cut all unnecessary words. Ask someone you respect to look it over and suggest cuts. If you move the reader along quickly, you’re more apt to keep him or her reading. In particular, trim your adjectives and adverbs. Newer writers tend to think it will make them look mature or thoughtful if they lard up their text with adjectives (“The bright, yellow, cheery sun shone on the green, verdant, rolling hills as…we…Zzzzzz…..”). It doesn’t. It just takes the punch out of your writing.

    3. Use short sentences. Yeah, you can call it the Curse of USA Today, but short sentences cause the reader to stay with you. They also force you to break complex ideas down into simpler thoughts, thereby making your work more easily memorable.

    4. Create a strong lead. Think through your opening words. Make sure they draw your reader into your topic. You want your lead to arouse curiosity, hook them into your topic, and set your scene.

    5. Work on your writing flow. Make sure your first sentence flows logically into your second sentence. Then make your second sentence flow into your third. Follow that by making sure your

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  • December 10, 2012

    Why don't publishers want to fast track most books?


    Someone wrote and asked, “Do publishers have a ‘fast track’ for an idea that is time sensitive? Do they leave room for hot topics in their publishing pipeline?”

    Sure, publishers have a fast track, but they use it very carefully. When you turn in your completed manuscript, it’s usually going to sit with the publisher for a year before it hits store shelves. That’s partly because they have artistic and production decisions, but it’s really more of a sales issue — stores order books months in advance. So right now stores are looking at what books they’ll have in their stores next summer. A book that is dropped into a list hasn’t been given much time to create a marketing buzz, it hasn’t been presented to stores to order, and the whole process gets rushed. So publishers don’t want to drop a bunch of new titles into their lists that don’t have support and won’t sell.

    What I’ve found is that frequently an author wants to fast track a book, when if fact it would do better if the sales and marketing types put it through the usual process. Every author feels as though he or she can’t wait — that the book needs to be released immediately in order to capture the moment. In my view, that’s usually a time trap. Most books will do better if they aren’t rushed, and allow  the system to work. So keep in mind that, if you’re going to be working with a traditional publisher, you’re probably going to have to take the long view to get the full benefit of the relationship.

    At the same time, ebooks allow a faster turnaround, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s possible to get a book out very quickly and speak to an immediate need — but we’ve all seen a bunch of books that were rushed and really not ready for the

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  • December 8, 2012

    Brilliant Predictions from 2009


    So a few years ago, I posted “predictions” for the future of publishing. I clearly don’t have the gift of prophecy, but thought it would be fun to go back and look at what I had to say, and how my predictions panned out. This is from Dec of 2009:

    1. Borders will survive, but Barnes & Noble will take over. Um… wrong. Borders, a fun but poorly managed business, is gone. B&N has taken over, but we’ll see if that lasts.

    2. A major author will self-publish. This seems comical now, with everybody self-publishing, but at the time there was a question if established authors would try self-pubbing or remain exclusively with traditional publishers. Score a small one for me.

    3. Ebooks will more than double in sales. Ha! It didn’t take a genius to figure that out, apparently. Ebooks have doubled, doubled again, then doubled again. Now the growth is slowing, but it’s still the future. I was right, but a blind man could have picked this horse.

    4. Authors and publishers will offer a lot of free ebooks to boost readership. Again, this seems stupefyingly obvious now. So I was right on the basic idea. I just didn’t realize a million wannabes would glut the market with crummy free books, and therefore dilute the value of free ebooks.

    5. Libraries will move to ebooks. Well… who knows? They want to, apparently, but publishers are worried about usage and lost revenues, so it’s still not clear how libraries are going to work (or if we need all of them, in an age when anybody can google a topic on their laptop). No points for me on this one.

    6. Apple will create an e-reader. Um… score big on that one. This prediction was made before anyone had heard of an iPad, by the way. Again, it might be obvious now, but at the time it was a guess

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  • December 6, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: Social Media Critiques, Part 9


    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.

    A few weeks ago, I offered free social media critiques to those who replied before the 14th. You see, social media is a specialty of mine. Before becoming an agent, I worked for some years as a social media marketer at a marketing agency outside of Chicago. I worked with clients such as Vera Bradley, Peg Perego, Benjamin Moore and more. A somewhat longer description of what I did can be found in the first critique post.

    1. Saved Sister is a blog by Wendy.

    • Your “Sponsor” and “Contact Me” pages aren’t clickable…just something to look into!
    • This is a cute blog, but I feel as though you should be getting more interactions on your blog posts, considering the amount of Facebook and Google followers you have. Think about what posts work and what ones seem to fall flat. What ones get your readers talking and what ones keep them silent? Then, weed accordingly.
    • Consider interacting with those who leave comments. You want to acknowledge their participation…it will encourage them to do it again.
    • You might be covering too much here…you blog about motherhood, ministry, nonprofits, books, etc. Maybe you’re spreading yourself and your readership too thing?

    RECOMMENDATIONS: It seems your Five-Minute Fridays get the most interaction. Think of ways that you can engage readers of those posts on each day or most days of the week. You’ll see your reader and interaction numbers grow.

    2. First Comes Love is a blog by Meghan Carver

    • Your blog appears active and organized. Great job!
    • It’s a bit cluttered, so really think about whether you need so many do-dads at the end of every post and also
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  • December 5, 2012

    What if my agent and editor disagree on my manuscript?


    Continuing with questions people have about agents, someone wrote to say this: “I received different advice about my manuscript from my agent than I received from an editing service I hired. What’s the best approach to take when you get different advice from trusted sources?”

    Here at MacGregor Literary, we always rely on divine guidance. I toss the Urim and Thummim, read sheep entrails, and — Voila! God reveals the answer. So I’m never wrong. However, for those not as spiritual as me, you might want to assume that even good people can disagree. I mean, there’s no one right way to write a book. So take the time to think things over, and move ahead slowly with the decision that feels right.

    You know, many agent have editorial experience, and are good at talking through your ideas. Other agents may not have a lot of editorial experience, so the advice they’re giving you may be just to try and sound smart. What’s your experience with the agent? In the same way, in-house editors have the best interests of the publisher at heart. (That’s not a criticism, by the way. I’m just saying they’ll want to make your book fit their line.) Or, if it’s a freelancer, he or she may have a particular way they like to spin a manuscript. And it’s no secret that some editorial services are using unpublished authors at editors, who may not really have the experience or wisdom needed to assist you. So ask some questions. If you’re going to work with your agent long-term, talk it through with him or her. Make sure you understand what the different sources are saying. And remember this bit of Scottish wisdom: “Good is always better than fast.” Don’t be in a hurry to get something decided.

    Another author wrote to say, “I terminated my agent’s contract after he apologized for being hard to reach and told

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