• September 6, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: Free Website and Social Media Feedback for Authors!


    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 have a few workshops I offer, in which I discuss many of the topics that I’ve touched on here at Thursdays with Amanda. One is a “Writing for Social Media” class. The other is a broad look at the digital world and how it pertains to authors.

    After each of these classes, I always get people coming up to me, wanting me to take a look at their webpage, their blog, their facebook group. I can give them all the theory, all the practical application, all the ideas in the world when I’m standing up front, lecturing, and still, you’ll have those people who don’t know where to start. They want to be told what to do in a way that applies to them specifically. They want a bit of hand-holding.

    So for all of you hand-holders, this one’s for you!

    Just like those people come up to me after class, I want you to do the same. In the comments below, post links to the social media or website pages that you want some feedback on. Then, the coming weeks will be spent going over each submission. You’ll get my two cents, and probably a lot of other valuable feedback from the wonderful people who read my posts.

    Sound like a plan?

    If you’d like to participate, just leave a comment below with some links to the social media or website pages that you’d like feedback on the most. It’s that simple.

    I hope to hear from you!

    If you’re new to Thursdays with Amanda, the archives is a great place to get caught up.

    UPDATE: We’re getting lots of comments, which is great. I won’t

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  • September 5, 2012

    How can I improve my writing?


    Years ago, in another life, I made my living doing dopey magic tricks and telling jokes. (Really.) I played some nice places (the Comedy & Magic Club of Hermosa Beach was one), and I played some awful places (insert the name of any smoky bar on the west coast where the customers are more interested in Budweisers, Camels, and the opposite sex). One thing I noticed about the venues: Even if the place was a dive, there were lessons to be learned. Being in front of a living, breathing audience forces you to change your act. You have to work really hard to get people to laugh. All the rehearsal in the world wasn’t going to cause me to perfect my act — for that, I had to be bad in front of people.

    There’s a lesson for writers… A lot of potential authors are simply too sensitive. As a writer, you need a place to bad, so that you can learn to be good. So if your ego is too fragile to allow someone else to read your work, it’s time to learn this lesson. Allow yourself to be bad. Give somebody else (preferably not your mom, your spouse, or your best friend) the permission to be honest with you about your writing.

    Yes, this takes courage. And it means you’re going to have to find a couple people you trust. If you get into a large crit group, chances are you’re going to have one person you don’t like, who always hammers you for something. Learn to live with it. Paste a smile on your face, say “thanks very much,” and move on to somebody whose opinion you actually care about. BUT somewhere, in the midst of all that fake niceness, be willing to at least hear what that individual has to say about your writing. A fresh set of eyes is exactly why you joined the group,

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  • September 4, 2012

    Should an author blog?


    I keep getting one question over and over again from authors — “Should I blog?” Technorati tells us they are already following more than 20 million blogs, so it ought to be clear that adding one more generic blog to the world of cyberspace isn’t necessarily going to get you a lot of attention. If you decide to blog, it ought to be because you think you can create something different, that will speak to a need and gather readers. May I make some quick suggestions?

    First, make it easy to read. Too many blogs are indecipherable. That means the font and the overall design of the page should be easy on the eyes. It also means the reader should see some text right away, not have to scroll down to find something valuable.

    Second, have a theme. You may balk at this a bit, thinking that people are there getting to know YOU, and not focused on your topic. To a certain extent, that’s true. But just as your books help create a “brand” in the minds of consumers, so your blog helps solidify your brand with readers.

    Third, have a bio handy. Remember that new readers will sometimes stumble upon your site, or they’ll read about it in one of your books. That means every day you could conceivably garner a new reader — and he or she wants to know who you are. So have a short bio at the ready, in a place that’s easy to spot on your blog.

    Fourth, give stuff away. I mean it. Give away good content. Give away books. Give away prizes or goodies or all kinds of stuff. Offer help to people. Sure, the blog is aimed at helping you market yourself, but remember that none of us purposefully go view advertising online. If your blog seems like nothing but a commercial, people won’t want to visit. Make your blog

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  • August 30, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: What I’ve Done to Grow My Platform


    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’m heading to Chicon today…for those of you not in the know, Chicon (or WorldCon) is the 70th World Science Fiction Convention. Now an invitation to this event didn’t magically fall into my lap. I mean, MacGregor Literary hasn’t historically done much in the SF realm, so I’m sure we were far from making it on their “I hope they attend” list. Another interesting note, is that this event is pretty big and pulls REALLY big names (George R.R. Martin is the name I’ve been dropping right and left). So it wasn’t like getting an invite would be as easy as calling up a friend of a friend and then voila!

    Nope, it was a bit more complex than that. And it involved aggressive Internet research, consistent follow up, and a willingness to do whatever, whenever.

    The reason I’m explaining all of this is that agents have to build a platform, too. Or maybe it’s more of a rapport (?). But either way, we need to get our name out there so that we meet authors, so we can sign those authors, so that we get to know editors, so that we do deals with those editors and then somewhere along the line…put food on the table.

    So for this week, I thought I’d share a bit about what I’m doing to build my platform.

    There are lots of literary agents in publishing. I mean LOTS. And not all of them are the real deal. Some are there to scam unsuspecting authors. And most will fizzle out in a few years. So when you’re new to the business, there’s all this suspicion surrounding you. Will she last? Will

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  • August 29, 2012

    What else will help my book sell?


    A few more thoughts that came out of my conversation with some marketing people at a recent conference…

    4. Another step in selling your book, and one that relies almost completely on the author, is that there needs to be a successful and growing internet presence surrounding your title. Right now we’re seeing too many novelists visit the same 30 or 40 blogs, shilling their book (and, in my view, not selling many copies). But in a successful marketing campaign, the discussion of the book grows beyond that same chat-fest of blogs. The author seeks out new groups, who share an interest in her stories or topics, and finds ways to talk about the basic ideas in a wider setting. Let me offer an example: If a crime writer can get law enforcement sites to talk about his book, or can link into some networks where people discuss crime and culture, the book is much more apt to take off, and that allows the marketing people to reach more potential readers. For a nonfiction writer, I would venture a guess that your speaking and media platform is vitally important toward making this piece of the equation work. Again, this is an area that is almost the exclusive domain of the author, since publisher helps in this area have a tendency to be a bit flat. YOU know your book best, so YOU should be doing this. Doing regular work in creating an internet presence will require a significant investment of time and energy.

    5. In discussing fiction marketing with this group, they came to the conclusion that space advertisements were an important piece, but ONLY if they reach a targeted audience.Here’s an example: If you’re doing a historical novel set in 17th Century Scotland, getting some ads into the magazines and websites subscribed to by those who love Scotland and its history is crucial. (Okay…I’ll admit that I subscribe

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  • August 28, 2012

    What has to happen to make my book sell?


    I thought it would be interesting to tell you all about a conversation I had with some marketing types while at a conference recently. I was particularly interested in what they perceived as being the components of a healthy novel marketing campaign (and if you’re a nonfiction writer, keep in mind that I was talking with these folks specifically about fiction marketing). We brainstormed what works and what doesn’t, talked about about the various issues involved, and in the end came down to just a half-dozen important steps…

    1. Most successful marketing campaigns are focused on a high concept book. That means the book isn’t just another familiar story, but a BIG story, a BIG idea. People hear about it and immediately understand what the story will be focused on, and that it’s a big, over-the-top idea. Not every book you write will be in this category, but it’s worth understanding that a high concept idea can help you succeed in today’s market.

    2. The second step we noted is that successful marketing campaigns usually have a book with a great cover — which is important to remember when dealing with your publisher. You see, your editor is going to get a couple sample covers from the art director, and is expected to pitch you on them. (One of the little secrets of publishing is that everyone wants to save money on art costs, so they’ll sometimes try to twist your arm to accept whatever they’ve got. It’s cheaper that way.) It’s why sometimes a book will come out with a terrible cover, and everyone is wondering “why in the world didn’t the author complain?” The reason is usually because someone at the publishing house told the author it was great, and to trust them, since they know how to craft great covers, etc. I think this speaks to the importance of educating yourself about covers — what makes a

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  • August 27, 2012

    Should an author hire an outside publicist?


    I’ve had this question quite a bit, from authors who aren’t sure if they can do the required marketing themselves. I think the first thing authors need to do is to look into what marketing they can do on their own. The second thing they need to do is to work with the marketing department at their publishing house, to try and maximize that relationship. But third, authors can certainly check into hiring an outsider to bring special knowledge or skills to the plan, or to pick up some of the pieces the author is not able to do. Some things to keep in mind when hiring an outsider marketing specialistl…

    1. Be very clear what the individual is going to do for you. Set up events? Send review copies? Set up radio interviews? Introduce you to magazines? If you’re talking to an outsider, make sure you know exactly what it is they’ll do for you. They should be willing to create a list (that you can later check). Learn to ask pointed questions, or have your agent ask pointed questions.  

    2. Be very clear what this individual has done in the past. There are a bunch of marketing types I know who, in my opinion, don’t bring any particular success with them. The fact that they’ve been hired by publishers to work on past books may merely mean that they turned in the cheapest bid, not that they did a good job. So ask — Who have you worked with? What did you do? What were some of the results? 

    3. Be very clear what the cost is. Marketing types can do a full-blown, multi-month campaign for your book — or they can do things piece by piece, with you paying them to do particular jobs. Think of it as a Chinese menu — you can order one from column A and one from column B, or you can

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  • August 24, 2012

    What is a “platform”?


    I’ve had a couple people write to ask, “What is a platform?” 

    The simplest way to view this is to say that a platform is a NUMBER… the number of people who have contact with you and your writing. Let’s say that you speak at conferences — how many conferences? in what venues? to how many people? who gets to hear the recordings? All those folks who hear you speak over the course of the year add up to a number. 
    Next, let’s assume you have a column in a newspaper, or maybe you do occasional feature articles. All those folks read your words, so the readership of that paper is another number. 
    If you are regularly on a radio show, or perhaps host the occasional program on local radio or TV, the listenership or viewership has a number. 
    Perhaps you’ve got a popular blog, or you post online articles on e-zines. That readership can easily be quantified. OR you’re heavily involved with social media, so that you spend a lot of time Facebooking or Twittering, checking in with LinkedIn or ShoutLife friends. All of those folks who have regular contact with you and your words via the web — another number. 
    And yes, your previous books have a readership, and perhaps you’ve captured names and email addresses so that you can more easily re-connect with them. That’s another number. 
    If you’re well-connected to an association, or you’re a member or leader of an organization, those folks all have contact with you. So your organization, your church, your city’s arts council, the college alumni association that interviewed you for their newsletter — all of those types of connections present a number of readers who are familiar to you.
    Add those numbers together. That’s your platform. Everybody who has a connection point to you.
    That’s a how a platform is built. You make friends and build an awareness of yourself and
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  • August 23, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: How to Use Tumblr to Grow an Author Platform


    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.

    We’ve talked before about blogging, but this week I wanted to cover something called microblogging.

    Microblogging is exactly what it sounds like…it’s a smaller, more condensed form of blogging. Images are usually the focus of such microblogs, but they can also be text-based.

    Here are some of my favorite microblogs:

    • KateMiddletonForTheWin – I have a major girlcrush on Kate. But these make me laugh every time.
    • SlushPile Hell – I wish I would have thought of this first.
    • Clients From Hell – Maybe it’s my marketing background that makes this microblog so appealing? I don’t think any of the microposts surprised me. They just fueled my rage.

    By now you should have a small understanding of microblogging…short posts, centered around a theme (whether visual or theoretical). And if you noticed, each of the examples I gave use Tumblr as their site’s service provider. It’s really the leading host for this approach to blogging.

    Okay, so why should authors care about microblogging?

    1. It’s quick. Constructing a traditional blog post can take hours, depending on how finicky you are. Microblogging takes a fraction of that time, using a fraction of those words.
    2. It’s focused. I know I keep hounding you about having a goal…well, microblogging is a great example of a medium that simply won’t work without a goal. It practically forces you to choose a topic, preventing you from microblogging about flowers one day, Mozart the next, then your dog, then your deep thoughts on black holes followed by a reposted tribute to AC/DC.
    3. It’s clean. No fancy backgrounds. No design expertise needed. Just clean and simple…ideal for the digital n00b.

    But how can Tumblr and microblogging

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  • August 22, 2012

    Where do I start marketing my book? (Part Three)


    We’ve been talking about the beginning steps for someone who has a book releasing. The past two days we looked at some very basic things to help you start marketing your book. A few more thoughts (then I’ll turn it over to Amanda, who has MUCH more to say on marketing.)

    A seventh thought: If you’re going to rely on social media, get some video together to help promote it. When you look at the growth of YouTube and other video-sharing sites on the web, you can see the direction advertising on the web is going. We’re a visual society, so you want people interacting with your words and seeing the big story. You may also want to at least consider buying web ads on the sites those potential readers visit. Don’t assume it’s too expensive until you’ve checked it out — those are basically cheap space ads, and some of them are seen by more people than the space ads in trade journals. (Again, you probably realize this, but many sites have “pay-per-click” ads, which cost nothing unless an interested reader actually clicks on the ad to read more about your book.)

    Eighth, if you’re writing non-fiction, or your novel contains material that is related to news in some way, think about creating some articles and posting them. What you’re trying to do is to create buzz, of course. You want people to notice your book, to start talking about it, and to think of you as an expert in the field. There’s a bunch of information available on how to do this — Randy Ingermanson has talked about it on his site, and you’ve probably heard the idea before. If you were doing a novel that focused on a child abduction, you’d do a couple articles on child abductions and how to prevent them. You then post those on sites that draw readers interested in that topic.

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