• May 11, 2012

    Final Bad Poetry Entries Due TODAY


    All good things must come to an end, and the Bad Poetry Contest is no exception. Please submit your sonnet, Haiku, Limerick, or free-form verse TODAY as a comment to this blog. We await your weeping feelings and wrenching observations.

    Tune in tomorrow for a post announcing the much-anticipated winner of the Lady Gaga style Bible. As today is Chip’s birthday, he is away from the office and not likely to comment on any entries, especially rhyming birthday ones.

    Next week the blog will return to publishing topics. Keep the questions coming, everyone!



    Continue Reading "Final Bad Poetry Entries Due TODAY"
  • May 11, 2012

    Final Bad Poetry Entries Due TODAY


    All good things must come to an end, and the Bad Poetry Contest is no exception. Please submit your sonnet, Haiku, Limerick, or free-form verse TODAY as a comment to this blog. We await your weeping feelings and wrenching observations.

    Tune in tomorrow for a post announcing the much-anticipated winner of the Lady Gaga style Bible. As today is Chip’s birthday, he is away from the office and not likely to comment on any entries, especially rhyming birthday ones.

    Next week the blog will return to publishing topics. Keep the questions coming, everyone!



    Continue Reading "Final Bad Poetry Entries Due TODAY"
  • May 9, 2012

    We welcome your bad poetry…


    If you’ve not checked out this year’s Bad Poetry contestants (in the “comments” section), you’ve missed such good work as Cimex Lecularis, The Arab Sprummer, and A Fruit Soliloquy. All of them awful.

    If you’re really into bad poetry, check out this guy’s song on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=njrmL1y3ul8

    We need more bad poetry like this! So click on “comments” and offer up your own bit o’ Badness!

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  • May 8, 2012

    The 2012 Bad Poetry Contest continues…


    That’s right. Put down that Amanda Hocking novel and start thinking “bad” — as in, “bad poetry.” Every year during my birthday week we take some time away from talking writing and marketing and books, in order to focus on what’s really important — crappy poetic license. You’re free to let your imaginations run wild. For example, yesterday, we got this stinker submitted by the deep and meaningful Ben Erlichman…

    A Fruit Soliloquy

    Alas, the moose, she has taken my bananas

    And I can hear the sound of the wailing wind no longer.
    Whatever shall I do? How can I reclaim
    What has been taken from me?
    It is as if my very soul cries out
    In hopes for some relief, some comfort, 
    Some fresh produce to make me regular once again.

     Let’s face it, a paean to irregularity is the perfect sort of set-up to bad poetry. This one is lodged like a chunk of cheese in the digestive tract of my mind. So thanks, Ben. And now I invite YOU to participate. Just hit “comment” down below and post your worst work.
    Yours in digestive artistry,
    Chip MacGregor
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  • May 7, 2012

    Our Annual Bad Poetry Contest is Back!


    Great news: The 2012 Bad Poetry Contest is here!  

    As you know, each day here on the blog we offer wisdom and thoughts on the business and careers of writing. And over the last six years, it’s proven helpful enough that Writers Digest has again named us one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. But one week each May (the week of my birthday), we take a week off from the business to continue a wonderful longstanding tradition of creating truly awful poems. All you have to do is go to the bottom of this post, hit “comments,” and leave your bit of doggerel. The rules are simple:

    1. Don’t sent me a birthday poem. That’s not the point. Anyone who sends in “Happy Birthday o’ Chip o’ mine, hope this finds you well and fine” will be banned for life.

    2. Write a truly bad poem.

    That’s pretty much it. We want to see your poetic soul. The rotten rhymes, the horrible haikus, the crappy couplets, the stupid cinquains, the execrable epics. We’re after flatulent free verse, sorry sonnets, putrid petrarchan, rachitis rondeau, sickly sestina — um, okay, you get the picture. A quick view back over previous winners reveal such treasures as Blind Puppy on the Freeway, Walleye Eludes Me, and Krziette, which contains this memorable line: “Krziette, your love for me was like lowing of she-goats in spring, when bald sparrows alight on budding bushes.” It’s that sort of deepfulness that will cause you to win.

    And there WILL be a winner, of course. Each year, we select a truly fabulous grand prize (previous winners have included a lava lamp, a home-tattoo kit, a 45 record of Neil Diamond singing “I Am, I Said,” and a copy of the immortal self-published tome “How to Good-Bye Depression”). This year’s collectible super-prize will be THE LADY GAGA STYLE BIBLE, which should hold wide appeal to all trampy girls,

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  • May 4, 2012

    When a writer needs a staff person to help…


    In response to our series on writers and staff, Susan sent this: “What success tips, or pitfalls to avoid, can you provide for hiring part-time staff?”

    First, I think you can ask yourself “what is my single greatest point of vulnerability? How could I get help in that area?” That will help you figure out when you need help most. All of us have stuff we don’t want to do, or don’t have the training to do, and it’s often best to bring in a professional who can help us get it done. 

    Second, before hiring anyone, even on a short-term contract basis, make sure you have your own life organized. If you have a calendar, a filing system, an address book, and a clear “to do” list with A, B, and C priorities, you will be better prepared to work with someone else. Without your own personal organization, you’ll find it nearly impossible to organize others.

    Third, keep in mind the best time to fire a person is when you don’t hire them. (Kudos to Bobb Biehl, management guru, for phrasing this so well.) All of us have had to fire a person who didn’t work out after we’ve invested a lot of time, money, and energy into their career. It hurts, and it puts us further behind. So don’t just hire anyone — hire the right person to work with you.

    Fourth, if the person you’re interviewing simply doesn’t have the skills you need, ask yourself if you have the time and desire to train them. Sometimes a person YOU train is better than the person somebody ELSE trained. If they don’t have the experience the job requires but they have the skills, ask yourself if the position needs that extra level of sophistication, or if you can offer them the experience they need.

    Fifth, keep in mind that all of us were once beginners. Look

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  • May 3, 2012

    Thursdays with Amanda: How to Use Facebook as an Unpublished Writer


    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.

    This one’s tricky. I’m not going to lie. In all honesty, Facebook probably isn’t the best way to gain a readership if you’re an unpublished author. I’d much rather you blog or speak or write articles. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. It’s just going to be more difficult…and the focus definitely needs to shift.

    In going through these tips on how to grow your author platform, we tend to focus on reaching as many potential readers as possible. I’ve encouraged hashtags, multiple article submissions, and given you a few tips on making your blog posts more searchable. But for Facebook, we need to scale it back.

    Because unlike all of those other media outlets, Facebook is one of those places where you can quickly turn into an annoying friend.

    Take me for example…I joined Facebook way back in 2005. My reason for joining was so that I could stay in touch with my college friends after graduation (that, and I got pressured into it). So for 7 years I’ve been using Facebook primarily to strengthen friendships, stay in touch with family, and stalk the occasional random person.

    So when I became an agent two years ago, I knew I couldn’t just turn my Facebook profile into a neverending advertisement for my career. Unless I seriously wanted to annoy my friends.

    The first rule of using Facebook for both private and professional use is that you must must must separate the two. Keep a personal profile for yourself and then put together a professional page for your career-self. Sure, you can link to your professional page now and then or share really

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  • May 2, 2012

    More on “Does a writer need a staff?”


    As a follow-up to yesterday’s question, Jim wants to know, “How did you find the right person to work with? And how did you justify the expense?”

    I asked around, found candidates, then I asked them hard questions. Most of us want to hire someone because we LIKE them — and, unfortunately, we end up hiring someone just like ourselves. So that individual always feels frustrated and they never quite have the skills to fill in the remaining gaps. So let me make a suggestion: BEFORE you start interviewing anyone for the job, create a simple position description that describes what it is you need done. 

    It will look like this:

    Job Title:

    Here’s What I Need Done:

    Here are the on-going responsibilities:

    Here are the hours I’d like:

    Here’s my definition of success:

    Skills required:

    Experience I’d prefer:

    Additional thoughts:


    If you do something like this ahead of time, you can evaluate a candidate against your expectations and their skills. It’ll keep you from hiring that nice, perky assistant who, unfortunately, doesn’t know how to read.

    As for the additional expense, I make my living representing authors. Any help I can get to take away other responsibilities and work more effectively with authors is generally worth it. In the long run, I make MORE money paying somebody else to do my taxes and mow my lawn and copy-edit my manuscript and double-check all the citations than if I were to do it myself. Does that makes sense?

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  • May 1, 2012

    Does a writer need a staff?


    Veronica sent me a question about working with outside help: “Do you think writers should ever hire a staff person? (And what sort of staff do you use?)”

    I think it’s possible for a writer to have others helping in various ways — research, editing, design, marketing, branding, etc. But I want to encourage you to expand your vocabulary a bit… Think of the word “staff” as being defined as something like “all those people who work WITH you to help you succeed at your job.” If you do that, you’re not just “picking up a freelancer” to assist you. Instead, you are “working with your staff.” So, the way I look at it, any time you use another person to assist you, you’re hiring staff to help you get your job done. 

    With that in mind, I’ve had a number of part-time staff work for me in different capacities. When I ran a writing and editing service, I would hire (on a contract basis) people to transcribe speeches, to read manuscripts and give me their evaluation, to copy-edit, to create an index, to write back-cover and marketing copy, to research, to create study questions, and (sometimes) to simply sub-contract some of the writing jobs I’d taken on. I also hired a bookkeeper to take care of checks, a tax guy to deal with Uncle Sam, and an artsy type to assist in discussions over covers, posters, web sites, etc. All were part time. And though none were official employees, they were all part of my “staff.” I paid them a fair wage, but I wasn’t interested in making anyone an employee.

    Some writers who have had success and need assistance in particular areas use this sort of approach — specialists who can help in specific areas. Others use more of a generalist approach, hiring someone to assist them in whatever comes up. There’s no right way to do it

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  • April 27, 2012

    Who do you do with a bad review?


    Colleen wrote me and said, “I just got a terrible review on Amazon. I hate even going there to look at it. Tell me, what do you do with a bad review?”

    It’s one of the things unpublished authors don’t realize… once you put something into print, it’s there forever. If you say something stupid, and you’re stuck with it. You can go to the person and apologize, but the words are still out there, waiting to be discovered by millions of other potential readers who will never get to hear your personal explanation or apology. 

    Writing is a scary thing.

    I’ve often done fairly blunt assessments of books and articles, and at times I’ve hurt people’s feelings. But I never set out to do that. I mean, it’s not like I saw the book, didn’t like the author, and decided to toast them just for fun. When I’ve said something was stupid or badly written, it was because I was trying to offer an honest evaluation of a project. But that’s not universally respected. Let’s face it — plenty of people ONLY want you to stay something nice, or to say nothing at all. 

    So if you’re asked to review a book that’s awful, what are you supposed to do? Lie about it? It seems to me like the best thing to do is to be honest but as gracious as possible, speaking the truth (or at least the truth as you see it) in love. It’s those sorts of jobs that can get you into trouble.

    Unfortunately, a bad review like that can hurt an author’s career (to say nothing of the author’s feelings). So I find that when I’m simply asked to review a book for a friend, I tend to simply stay away from reviewing a book I didn’t love. That means the title will get a falsely-positive set of reviews, but  I don’t have to

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