Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

If you could sit and have a beer with a literary agent…

April 18th, 2014 | Agents, Career, CBA, Conferences, Current Affairs, Deep Thoughts, Marketing and Platforms, Publishing, Questions from Beginners, Trends | 0 Comments

I’m taking the month of April and letting people send in ANY question they have about writing and publishing. If you could sit down for an hour over a beer with a literary agent, and ask him anything you wanted, what would you want to know? Here are questions I’ve been sent recently…

If I am offered a contract, should I then get an agent?

That depends on the situation. Although I’m a longtime literary agent, I’m not an agent-evangelist, insisting everyone needs an agent. So think about the big picture here — your agent didn’t discuss the idea with you, or help you sharpen your proposal, or introduce you to editors, or send it out to publishers, or offer career advice. Once you’re offered a contract, the agent is going to step into it and earn a commission. So here’s my thinking… IF the agent can bring value, in terms of doing a great negotiation, and improving the contract & terms, and getting involved in the marketing, and stepping in to help with dramatic and foreign rights, and offering advice for your future, then it might be worthwhile to have an agent step in. But if all he’s going to do is say “yes” to the offer, it may not be worth paying him 15%. Consider talking with a good contract evaluation service, which might only charge a couple hundred dollars. (Or you might talk with an attorney, but be careful — they tend to charge by the six-minute increment and want to keep the clock running, so it can be expensive. Maybe consider this option if you’ve got something complex, such as a series offer or a movie deal.) But don’t sign with someone just so you can have the honor of saying, “I have an agent!”

If my novel is women’s fiction, is it best to target a female agent?

It’s best to target an agent who does a lot of work in your genre. If you write historical romance, you don’t need an old romantic to represent you — but it helps to have an agent who has sold a bunch of historical romances. I’ve sold as much romance over the past fifteen years as anyone, I think, and I’ve done pretty well for the authors I represent. Of course, you need to feel comfortable with your agent, so don’t sign on with the first person who offers you representation. Check them out and make sure they’re legit. Have they done deals? How many in your genre? Who were those deals with? Do they have authors who have stayed with them and grown their careers? I occasionally do conferences, and I’ve been amazed at the lack of experience I see in some of the people posing as agents.

If you are a member of a group that has an interest in a certain period of history (say “the Old West”), and you are allowed/encouraged to peddle your novel to the group, does that count towards your platform? If there are 9000 members in the group, can I claim that number, or does it have to be people who are actually following you on Facebook?

Sure that counts toward your platform. Those are people who are interested in what you’re writing. By all means include them. My one caution: Don’t push writing organizations too hard in your pitch. A romance writer who tells me, “I belong to RWA” isn’t really impressing me — LOTS of people belong to RWA. And while the organization is fabulous (for those who don’t know, RWA puts on one of the best writing conferences on the planet), it’s made up of writers who won’t really buy a lot of your books. Your friends will buy books, of course, but they’re buying the books because they are your friends, not because they belong to RWA.

Building a platform is one thing, but how does one build a real-world platform if they don’t live anywhere near a big city?

You build a platform by developing contacts and friendships. So you use the internet to connect with some folks. You write articles that get noticed, then interact with readers. You do blog posts or interviews, and interact with the people who come on to comment. You tweet and discuss things with online groups. Maybe you do webcasts or radio interviews from the comfort of your small-town home. You work to get endorsements and reviews. You partner with organizations and peers to get in front of others. You seek out your target audience and get in front of them — not to sell books, but to engage them as possible friends. You don’t need to be in a big city to make that happen; and I can tell you of several successful authors who don’t live in big cities. (Case in point: Tracie Peterson is a New York Times bestselling author who has built a career living in, um, nowhere. But I like to use her as an example because it allows me to tell everyone that Tracie and her husband Jim once named their dog after my son. Really. “Here, Colin MacGregor!”)

When my book was declared out of print, why wouldn’t my publisher give me the rights to the cover art?

A fiction publisher wrote me to say, “Authors never hoid any rights to the artwork for their book’s cover design. Publishers license those images for their product use or have staff photographers and designers create the covers. Once print rights revert on the book, in all but a very few cases the publisher can’t give the author that artwork, since the cover art is contracted between the designer and the publisher.”

I know you do a lot of inspirational fiction, so can you tell me why it is that modern day CBA agents and publishers seem to shy away from fantasy in Christian literature?

Because it doesn’t sell. It’s the same reason most publishers currently shy away from westerns — they don’t sell in big numbers. As soon as they determine the genre will sell well, publishers will start producing more of those books. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about publishing, it’s to be patient. Things come into style, then they go out of style. Jane Austen books were huge, now they seem to be waning. Dystopian was all the rage, now nobody is contracting them. Be patient. Fantasy is big with young people, so my guess is that as this generation moves toward adulthood, fantasy will make a comeback. As I like to say, publishing is a tidal business — the tide comes in, the tide goes out.

What is the most creative or memorable pitch someone has made to you?

Um… you won’t much like my answer. Most of the authors I represent are people I knew, or friends of current clients whom I met and started working with. My list isn’t really filled with authors who wowed me at a ten-minute pitch session at a conference (although I realize this would be a considerably more fun answer if I said that). So the really memorable ones, to me, were the authors who came in with a great idea, and showed me some fabulous writing. Christy Award winner Ann Tatlock simply showed me a proposal at a conference, and the writing was so good I think I fell off my chair. Sheila Gregoire got up and spoke at a conference in Canada, and immediately had the audience in the palm of her hand, making me want to read her work. Bonnie Gray (who you don’t know, but her book White Space is releasing later this spring) had a great story to tell. Romance writer Vickie McDonough simply showed me a wonderful idea at a conference in the mountains of Colorado. Holly Lorincz showed me a proposal over coffee that made me laugh out loud. Gail Martin was speaking at a conference with me, and had so much wisdom to share with people that I think I pitched myself to her. Kimberly Stuart met me on a shuttle bus, and I was so charmed I had to read her work. Every one of them was a writer, with a strong voice, and I was impressed by their professionalism. While I like each of them, I’m not representing them because I like them — I’m representing them because I like them AND THEY CAN WRITE. That’s probably not the answer you were looking for. But I do have one great story…

I was at a conference, and talked on a panel about the pluses and minuses of working in the CBA/religious/spirituality market. I said to the audience that one of the interesting things about it is that I’m an Anglican, and CBA is populated with a variety of religious types — the ultra-conservatives, the leftist social types, the wild charismatics, the quiet fundamentalists, the angry, the loud, the wacky… all sorts of people, most of them very normal, and some of them wondering if I’m “Christian enough” for them. And at times some of them can be sure they have “the call of God” — which makes it a bit awkward when I have to say, “God may have told you to write your book, but He didn’t give me any instructions about having to represent it.” Anyway, that night there was a fancy dinner, and as I walked up to my table, I noticed someone had left a card on my chair. It read, “GOD TOLD ME HE WANTS YOU TO BE MY AGENT!” I laughed, as did the woman who wrote the card. We became friends, and I’m proud to represent romance writer Jennifer Johnson, who is a hoot.

What is the most fun you’ve had at a writing conference? And what’s the worst experience you’ve had at a conference?

I love writing conferences, since it’s a chance to see friends and share some fun in what is largely an individual business. I’ve got great memories of dancing into the wee hours while being the only male at the Harlequin party (me and 500 women getting down to “It’s Raining Men”). Gnoshing with fellow faculty members Michael Chabon, Yann Martel, Katherine Peterson, and Francine Rivers at the 2008 Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing, or at the 2006 Festival with Lauren Winner, Walter Wangerin, Alice McDermott, and Salman Rushdie (who, I must be honest, I only met for a moment). Ditching the way-too-uptight Mount Hermon conference with editorial friends one night to (1) hear a blues band, (2) accidentally wander into Lesbian Night at a dance club, and (3) take a dip in the Pacific Ocean at 3 in the morning. But my favorite time at most conferences is usually late at night, having quiet conversations over a glass of wine. I was introduced to the fabulous novelist Lisa Samson one time, and she immediately said, “You’re always saying nice things about my books!” We’ve gone on to work together for years. I had a great conversation with the wonderful writer Susan Meissner at a conference, and later got to work with her (Susan is one of those authors that I simply have to tell everyone about — her craft is so great that she inspires other writers). I met #1 best-selling novelist Mindy Clark at a conference, sitting in the restaurant and watching a terrible karaoke show, and she turned out to be one of the most fun people, and one of the most dedicated craftspersons I’ve ever known. (She won’t sleep until she gets the sentence right.) I met the incredibly gifted Rachel Hauck at a conference, and was struck right away with the way she processes a story. It’s the late, quiet conversations I think I like best.

My worst conference experience? This is a true story (and one that keeps showing up in other people’s writing)… I was at a Northwest writing conference at Seattle Pacific University years ago. (I remember the location, since two of my kids graduated from college there.) I had this weird guy who kept following me around, trying to pitch his book to me. Every time I turned around — BANG! There he was, holding his damn manuscript. Once, in trying to get away from him, I walked into the men’s room. As I was standing at the urinal (and that’s not an exaggeration: AS I WAS STANDING AT THE URINAL) I realized he was beside me, and he said, “um, if you could just take a look at my book sometime…” as he slipped it in front of my face. True story. I yelled at him, “NOT NOW!” and if I’d have been thinking, I would have turned and yelled at him, if you get my drift. A memorable experience.

Hey, we’ve invited writers this month to send in the questions they have always wanted to ask a literary agent. Drop me your question, and I”ll get to it next week.

If I were having brunch with a literary agent…

April 4th, 2014 | Agents, Career, CBA, Conferences, Current Affairs, Publishing, Questions from Beginners, Self-Publishing, The Business of Writing | 3 Comments

I’m spending the month answering questions authors say they would ask if they could sit down and have a conversation with me. I’ll be doing this the entire month of April, and I’m trying to get to all the questions that get sent in.

Can I query an agent if I’ve posted one or more chapters of my book online?

It depends on the agent, but with MacGregor Literary (and with many other agencies) YES we would look at a book that has been posted online. That’s one of the things that has changed over the past couple of years.

When an agent receives a standard commission, does it all stay with the agent or is it split with the agency?

If the agent works for a medium-sized agency, then yes, that commission is going to be split. Part of it will be paid to the agent, and part will remain with the agency. If the agent works for a large agency where he or she is paid a salary, the commission goes to the agency, but a bonus will probably be paid at the end of the year, depending on the size of the deal. Of course, at a small agency, the agent is probably keeping the entire commission.

How might I find the most appropriate agents to query? The usual advice seems to be to read agent blogs and websites, read the Guide to Literary Agents, and comb the acknowledgements in books by comparable writers. I’ve done a good deal of that. The problem: By vocation I’m an academic. I write religious non-fiction for a non-academic readership. Most people in my line of work write for other scholars and don’t have agents, and I haven’t been finding people like me on agency lists of authors — though my search has not been exhaustive. Like most of my colleagues, I sold my first book (to IVP) without an agent. Now it seems an having agent would be very helpful indeed.

I would agree that doing some research is the best way to locate an appropriate agent. You may want to add Publishers Marketplace (PM), which has a searchable database of agents and deals dating back six or seven years, and allows you to search by genre or key word. (PM is $20 per month, and well worth the price.) But if you’re writing for a trade audience (that is, not a scholarly audience, but the average reader who is walking into Barnes & Noble or looking for a book on Amazon), I think there are several good agents out there (and even more bad ones, frankly). Have a look at who is contracting the books, see who is already representing books similar to yours, and maybe ask around with some experienced authors. You may want to go to a couple of good conferences, where you can meet agents face to face — in some cases you can save money by going for one day, rather than paying for the whole schlamozzle.

I looked at the workshop line up for RWA National in July and more than half the conference is dedicated to self-publishing. A big part of my local chapter has self-published as well. I admire how a few authors are turning self-publishing into an empire, but for the vast majority of self-published authors it’s hit-or-miss. Yet there seems to be pressure on authors to self-publish these days. Do you think this direction is because it’s harder than ever to break into traditional fiction?

I think two things are at play… First, it’s as hard as it ever was to break into traditional publishing, and self-publising offers a potential opportunity to frustrated writers. I understand that frustration, and recognize why authors want to self-pub their works. Second, there is what I call the Amway Publishing Myth — that is, “All you have to do is to post your book onto Amazon and you’ll be making money, and soon you’ll be a star and the magical publishing faeries will smile on you.” Don’t get me wrong — I”m all for authors going indie and self-pubbing some titles. But it’s not a magic formula to success, it’s almost impossible to get noticed (Amazon now has 15 MILLION titles for sale), and my experience is that a lot of the folks who are pushing self-publishing as some sort of cure-all for every unhappy author are simply hucksters and wannabes. I hear from too many writers who talk big about their fabulous self-pubbed book, only to discover they’ve sold a couple dozen copies and made almost nothing. (Here I”ll be nice and say that if you don’t care about making money at your writing, and you’re only posting books on Amazon to express your creativity, then bully for you. But I do this as a business, so my inclination is to roll my eyes at people who say they don’t care of their ebooks sell or not.)

I have two questions which I would like to have a professional opinion about. First, friend of mine said the subject matter for my story may not be “publishable,” as it’s an historical about an unmarried girl from a wealthy family who is pregnant by a man of her social standing who rejects her. I’d wondered if this was too controversial for the Christian market. Second, Margaret Sanger had begun publishing “pro-choice” information at this time, and I wasn’t sure if it was legal to mention her by name or include her in the story. Is it?

To answer your first question, a novel about a young women of limited means who gets pregnant by a man of greater social standing who rejects her, is a fairly common theme in literature. I don’t see that as being too racy for a Christian fiction publisher. To answer your second question, Margaret Sanger was a historical figure, and novelists routinely tackle historical figures in fictitious/imaginative ways. It would not be at all uncommon or inappropriate to include her name or her words in your novel.

I write inspirational African American historical romance, and have won major writing contests. Still, it has been very difficult to get requests from CBA agents. My perspective is that in inspirational fiction, you need an agent to get to the editors. My options so far have been to self-publish or to take the inspirational label off of my works and go for general market agents instead. I think there is an entire market that is being ignored and most agents/editors don’t know what it is. So which do you think I should do? Self-publish or go for ABA?

A couple thoughts come to mind… First, you may not be talking with the right CBA agent. The best place to meet CBA fiction agents is at the ACFW conference, which happens every September. Let me encourage you to try and attend that this fall, if at all possible. It will put you face to face with a couple dozen agents who work in CBA. Second, it’s certainly possible that a more general market audience would be best for your novel (though I haven’t read it, so I’m obviously taking a wild surmise). Perhaps you could talk with a good editor of African-American fiction about the salability of your manuscript in the general market. Third, it’s also possible that self-publishing is a great choice for you, so long as you have a way to get the books in front of your audience. The reason most authors fail at indie publishing is because they can write,but they can’t market or sell their work. So evaluate your ability to get your manuscript in front of your intended readership. Does that help?

If you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask a literary agent, send it my way — I’ll happily get to it in April!

Three Things to Think About Before Talking with an Agent

March 18th, 2014 | Agents, Career, Conferences, Current Affairs, Questions from Beginners, The Business of Writing | 6 Comments

Agent Erin Buterbaugh is filling in for Chip today and has some great thoughts to share…

A lot of new authors I get emails from give the impression that the query/agent search is the culmination of their writing journey– they’ve written the book, maybe had it professionally edited, polished their query letter, and now the end of the road is in sight, nothing left to do but wait for an agent to say yes and hand over the reins, right? A little bit of tunnel vision is understandable; after all, you DO have to spend a substantial amount of time and mental energy getting your project in the best shape possible and getting it out to an agent, but when an interested agent wants to talk about the project and about your career goals, it’s important for you to be able to think beyond just whether or not that agent is going to say “yes” and give them the information they need to be able to judge whether you’re really ready for the next step in your career and whether their approach to agenting will be a good fit for you. Here are three questions/considerations that frequently seem to take authors by surprise when I ask.

1. What are you working on now/what do you want to do next?
I want to work with authors long-term, and help them build careers, not just pursue a single deal based on a single title so the author can cross “publish a book” off his bucket list, so I hesitate to take on even a great project from an author who has no idea what she wants to do next, or who isn’t already doing it. Sure, there are a few authors that just have one story to tell, but these are usually non-fiction projects and are the exception, not the rule. Think Aron Ralston, the guy who had to cut off his own arm when he became trapped between two boulders while hiking– the agent who got that query didn’t say, “Well, this one story is pretty cool, but you have no vision for your long-term writing career, so I’m going to pass,” but that’s because Ralston’s “one story” was a darn good one and would sell well enough to justify taking him on for that one book. (And also, I have no idea how that deal went down; most likely, agents fought to the death in an arena for the chance to represent Ralston rather than him sending out queries, but the illustration still stands.) For everyone who didn’t cut a limb off with a pocketknife, I’d like to hear that you’re already thinking about what’s next even before an agent has said yes– if you’ve written another novel or two in the meantime or have actually developed the outline for a potential sequel rather than just “being open to the idea of a sequel,” I know you actually WRITE, present tense, not just “have written,” and that there’s the potential for more to our author/agent relationship than just a single deal.

2. How does this project figure in the big picture of your publishing career?
Do you want to build a career writing in this genre/style, or is this project the exception to the rule? Are you writing for adults now, but eventually want to write for children as well, or instead? The red-flag response I get to this question generally falls into the category of “I have four million ideas, in every genre imaginable!” Writers are creative people. It’s in our nature. I certainly don’t read in a single genre, and I’ve written (and enjoyed writing) comedy, mystery, romance, and sci-fi. So, if my first novel was a romance because I had a great romance idea, and I used that manuscript to try and get an agent, an agent who represents a lot of romance and has great contacts in that genre might be happy to offer me representation based on that project, but if I haven’t given some thought to the arc of my publishing career as a whole (and done some writing/experimenting to support it), they might get me a deal for my romance and then really struggle to sell my sci-fi stuff when I decide that’s really the universe where the bulk of my ideas and where my voice are really at home. That, in turn, will lead to my being disappointed that my agent doesn’t seem as excited about my subsequent books as she was about the first, and to frustration when she has trouble selling them. Obviously, It’s impossible to know whether I’ll love/connect with every book an author will ever write, but the more I know about the author’s goals and vision for their career, the better I can judge whether we’re a good fit or not. I’m not necessarily more likely to take on an author who definitively identifies as a romance writer than one who wrote a romance but whose next two ideas are sci-fi, that knowledge just helps me to know what each relationship will look like and to know what to expect.

3. What do you want from an agent relationship?
Hint: I love when you answer this question in your query, before I even ask. This is where the research you’ve done on the agent you’re querying comes into play. Queries that include a reference to a project I’ve worked on or a part of my bio that an author connected with or a part of the MacGregor Literary philosophy that appeals to the author demonstrate that an agent is not simply a one-size-fits-all means to an end (getting published), but that a literary agent is someone that the author wants to partner with and feels can offer something valuable to his career. An agent should NEVER be paid up front (in case the weekly admonition from Chip on that front hasn’t sunk in yet), but they will be paid a percentage of your earnings on any project they represent for you, and it’s vital that you feel that their contributions are WORTH this percentage and that they are valuable to your career beyond simply knowing the magic password that will get your book on an editor’s desk. Obviously, you do want an agent to sell your work and to be a strong advocate for your financial and intellectual interests, but I want to know what other aspects of my role in your writing career you will value– do you want someone to help you develop ideas/brainstorm? To give you writing feedback/edits? To interpret contracts? To offer career direction? To grow your career by securing bigger deals or placing your work at bigger houses than you’ve previously published with? No two author-agent relationship will look alike, and knowing from the start what you want yours to look like with me will help me to meet your expectations going forward, or might alert us both to the fact that I won’t be able to meet your expectations, and that I’m not a good fit for you. Trust me, you will be ten times happier in the long run being honest with an agent about what you expect from her and having her decline you because she’s not a good fit than in letting the excitement of an agent showing interest in you cause you to compromise or forget your expectations and entering into a working relationship that doesn’t look like what you wanted it to.

Regardless of whether or not you’re ultimately a good fit for a particular agent, putting a little thought into life after “yes” from an agent is going to help generate traction and bring you closer to meeting your writing goals.

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Erin Buterbauch is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary Inc. A graduate of Taylor University’s Professional Writing program, she interned for another literary agency and has worked in the world of the professional arts before joining us two years ago.

Calling all writers in the Dallas area…

February 11th, 2014 | Conferences | 6 Comments

A new writing conference is fast approaching — and you’re invited.

On Saturday, February 15, I will be speaking at the Dallas Writers’ University. It’s a one-day event, with a rather intensive agenda:

  • I’ll speak on “developing a book proposal that sells,” and the focus will be on giving practical, hands-on help to writers who want to create a proposal that will get noticed.
  • I’ll also be speaking on “creating your long-term publishing strategy,” with an emphasis on traditional publishing, niche publishing, self-publishing, and alternative strategies for writers to make a living.
  • Michelle Borquez, bestselling author and entrepreneur, will explore “building a platform around your concept.”
  • There will be a Q&A time, and everybody there will have a face to face meeting with me sometime during the day.
  • Finally, Michelle and I will be talking about the secret to success in contemporary publishing.

You can read all about it here: www.eventbrite.com/e/dallas-writers-university-tickets-9845287520

I’m really looking forward to this opportunity. I’ve largely taken time away from conferences the past couple years, but I love talking to authors about proposals and strategy. And you’re invited. Again, every participant gets face time with me, where we’ll be reviewing proposals and talking about next steps in a one-on-one setting. That means our space is limited to just 30 people.

Here’s the thing . . . there are a hundred conferences you can go to in order to get some basic information on writing. But if you really want to join a small group and find out how to create a book that will sell, make some money, and gain entry into the world of publishing by talking to some experienced people in the industry, I hope you’ll consider joining us. I don’t do many conferences anymore (and rarely do a writing conference), so I’m excited to be asked to be part of this one.

The event is going to be in the Dallas area, at a church in White Settlement. The cost is $250 and includes lunch – but if you mention this blog when you sign up, you can attend for $199. Again, you can find out all you need to know by clicking here.

If you live anywhere in the area, I would love to have you come and introduce yourself to me.

Feel free to ask me questions — happy to be doing this!

-chip

A Workshop on Getting Published

January 7th, 2014 | Agents, Books, Career, Conferences, Marketing and Platforms, Proposals, Publishing, Questions from Beginners, Resources for Writing, The Business of Writing, The Writing Craft | 0 Comments

BY CHIP MACGREGOR

 

A new writing conference is fast approaching — and you’re invited.

On Saturday, February 15, I will be speaking at the Dallas Writers’ University. It’s a one-day event, with a rather intensive agenda:

  • I’ll speak on “developing a book proposal that sells,” and the focus will be on giving practical, hands-on help to writers who want to create a proposal that will get noticed.
  • I’ll also be speaking on “creating your long-term publishing strategy,” with an emphasis on traditional publishing, niche publishing, self-publishing, and alternative strategies for writers to make a living.
  • Michelle Borquez, bestselling author and entrepreneur, will explore “building a platform around your concept.”
  • There will be a Q&A time, and everybody there will have a face to face meeting with me sometime during the day.
  • Finally, Michelle and I will be talking about the secret to success in contemporary publishing.

I’m really looking forward to this opportunity. I’ve largely taken time away from conferences the past couple years, but I love talking to authors about proposals and strategy. And you’re invited. Again, every participant gets face time with me, where we’ll be reviewing proposals and talking about next steps in a one-on-one setting. That means our space is limited to just 30 people.

Here’s the thing . . . there are a hundred conferences you can go to in order to get some basic information on writing. But if you really want to join a small group and find out how to create a book that will sell, make some money, and gain entry into the world of publishing by talking to some experienced people in the industry, I hope you’ll consider joining us. I don’t do many conferences anymore (and rarely do a writing conference), so I’m excited to be asked to be part of this one.

The event is going to be in the Dallas area, at a church in White Settlement. The cost is $225 and includes lunch – but if you mention this blog when you sign up, you can attend for $199. You can find out all you need to know by clicking here.

If you live anywhere in the area, I would love to have you come and introduce yourself to me.

Feel free to ask me questions — happy to be doing this!

Last Chance: You’re Invited to our Marketing Seminar

October 22nd, 2013 | Conferences, Marketing and Platforms | 8 Comments

As I’ve noted on this blog already, on Saturday, November 2, we’re doing our annual MacGregor Marketing Seminar in Chicago. We do this every year, and invite the authors we represent to come — and this time, you have an opportunity to join us. This year we’ll be at the Embassy Suites at O’Hare (5500 North River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018), starting at 9 in the morning, and running until about 5 pm. We always hold the Marketing Seminar close to an airport, so out-of-town authors can fly in, take the free shuttle, spend the day with us, and either choose to stay the night or simply fly home the same day.

This year, we’re going to be breaking the day into five modules:

1. I’m going to start the day by talking about trends in the industry, and what authors need to know about making a living in today’s current publishing climate. The goal of this session is to help authors think through a realistic plan for making money with their writing.

2. The second session will be taught by Amanda Luedeke, assisted by agent Erin Buterbaugh. If you’re a follower of Amanda’s great “Thursdays with Amanda” marketing posts, or if you’ve read her incredibly helpful book The Extroverted Writer, you already know how much wisdom she has to offer writers. The focus on this session will be on making money with your ebooks, and she’ll be presenting a real-world plan for generating income via your digital rights.

3. In the third session we plan to break into genre groups (historical novelists together, nonfiction self-help writers together, etc) and go to lunch in order to talk through ideas with other people who write in your space and are trying to reach a similar audience.

4. The fourth (and longest) session is entitled “Maximizing Your Marketing Plan,” and is going to be led by Jeane and Tyson Wynn, principals at Wynn-Wynn Media. Jeane and Tyson are experienced marketing professionals who have earned the respect of publishers and authors, having worked on hundreds of successful marketing campaigns. They’re going to cover marketing plan essentials, questions to ask your publisher, how to get involved with the publisher’s marketing of your book, how to fill in the gaps with your own effective marketing efforts, and some very practical notes to help you know what you must do in order to make your marketing work. It’s always helpful to have working professionals to assist you as you map out your marketing strategies, so the goal of this session is to make sure you leave with a coherent plan to market your book — not just a creative idea or two, but some sense of why marketing works and what steps you need to take to move forward in your planning.

5. The last module, led by longtime agent Sandra Bishop, will be a Q&A with agents and marketers, where participants can ask whatever questions they have of the Wynns and the agents.

We host this event every year, and have always just kept it a private function for the authors we work with. But this year we’ve decided to open it up — so we reserved a larger room, and we have space for 20 visiting authors who would like to join us. The cost is $199 for the day. If you’d like to participate, this is your last chance to join us. Simply drop an email to Holly at macgregorliterary.com and she’ll tell you the details.

And, if you want to stay at the Embassy Suites Hotel (a very nice place, close to O’Hare, featuring large rooms, free drinks, and a made-to-order breakfast), we’ve negotiated a block of rooms at a reduced rate. You can call them directly at 847-292-3531 to make a reservation.

We’d love to have you join us.

- See more at: http://www.chipmacgregor.com/#sthash.T522JBp0.dpuf

Inviting you to join us at our marketing seminar

October 14th, 2013 | Conferences, Current Affairs, Marketing and Platforms, The Business of Writing | 6 Comments

Every year we host a marketing seminar for the authors we represent here at MacGregor Literary. We’re doing it again this year, but opening it up to writers who we don’t represent, just so they can take part in the day. The guest speakers this year are Jeane and Tyson Wynn, principals at Wynn-Wynn Media. who have created the marketing campaigns for hundreds of successful titles. Again, we’re meeting all day Saturday, November 2, at the Embassy Suites O’Hare in Chicago. The day starts at 9, and goes until 5 pm.

This year’s schedule looks like this:

Opening Session: I’ll be talking about trends in the industry, and will talk through a specific plan for how an author can make a living in today’s publishing market.

Session Two: Literary agent Amanda Luedeke, author of The Extroverted Writer, will lead a session on how to make money with ebooks.

Session Three: We’ll break into groups by genre and introduce writers, so they can swap ideas over lunch.

Session Four: Longtime marketing professionals Jeane and Tyson Wynne will talk with us about the big picture — what marketing is, how you work with your publisher’s marketing staff, ideas for how you can fill in the gaps of your marketing plan, and the secrets to making your book marketing effective.

Session Five: Longtime literary agent Sandra Bishop will a Q&A session, “Ask Me Anything,” where you’ll be able to ask the staff your specific questions.

—————-

I’d love to have you join us. We’ve always kept this closed to just the authors we represent, but we had so many requests that, this year, we simply booked a larger conference room at the hotel, and we can take an extra 20 people. The cost is $199 for the day. If you’d like to participate, just get in touch and we’ll reserve you a seat. Simply drop an email to Holly at macgregorliterary.com and she’ll tell you the details.

And, if you want to stay at the Embassy Suites Hotel (a very nice place, close to O’Hare, featuring large rooms, free drinks, and a made-to-order breakfast), we’ve negotiated a block of rooms at a reduced rate. You can call them directly at 847-292-3531 to make a reservation.

I hope you can come and be a part. Would love to meet face to face.

 

- See more at: http://www.chipmacgregor.com/#sthash.zTuMiQkg.dpuf

The MacGregor Marketing Seminar: You’re Invited

October 11th, 2013 | Career, Conferences, Current Affairs, Marketing and Platforms | 12 Comments

On Saturday, November 2, we’re doing our annual MacGregor Marketing Seminar in Chicago. We do this every year, and invite the authors we represent to come — and this time, you have an opportunity to join us. This year we’ll be at the Embassy Suites at O’Hare (5500 North River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018), starting at 9 in the morning, and running until about 5 pm. We always hold the Marketing Seminar close to an airport, so out-of-town authors can fly in, take the free shuttle, spend the day with us, and either choose to stay the night or simply fly home the same day.

This year, we’re going to be breaking the day into five modules:

1. I’m going to start the day by talking about trends in the industry, and what authors need to know about making a living in today’s current publishing climate. The goal of this session is to help authors think through a realistic plan for making money with their writing.

2. The second session will be taught by Amanda Luedeke, assisted by agent Erin Buterbaugh. If you’re a follower of Amanda’s great “Thursdays with Amanda” marketing posts, or if you’ve read her incredibly helpful book The Extroverted Writer, you already know how much wisdom she has to offer writers. The focus on this session will be on making money with your ebooks, and she’ll be presenting a real-world plan for generating income via your digital rights.

3. In the third session we plan to break into genre groups (historical novelists together, nonfiction self-help writers together, etc) and go to lunch in order to talk through ideas with other people who write in your space and are trying to reach a similar audience.

4. The fourth (and longest) session is entitled “Maximizing Your Marketing Plan,” and is going to be led by Jeane and Tyson Wynn, principals at Wynn-Wynn Media. Jeane and Tyson are experienced marketing professionals who have earned the respect of publishers and authors, having worked on hundreds of successful marketing campaigns. They’re going to cover marketing plan essentials, questions to ask your publisher, how to get involved with the publisher’s marketing of your book, how to fill in the gaps with your own effective marketing efforts, and some very practical notes to help you know what you must do in order to make your marketing work. It’s always helpful to have working professionals to assist you as you map out your marketing strategies, so the goal of this session is to make sure you leave with a coherent plan to market your book — not just a creative idea or two, but some sense of why marketing works and what steps you need to take to move forward in your planning.

5. The last module, led by longtime agent Sandra Bishop, will be a Q&A with agents and marketers, where participants can ask whatever questions they have of the Wynns and the agents.

We host this event every year, and have always just kept it a private function for the authors we work with. But this year we’ve decided to open it up — so we reserved a larger room, and we have space for 20 visiting authors who would like to join us. The cost is $199 for the day. If you’d like to participate, we’d love to have you join us. Simply drop an email to Holly at macgregorliterary.com and she’ll tell you the details.

And, if you want to stay at the Embassy Suites Hotel (a very nice place, close to O’Hare, featuring large rooms, free drinks, and a made-to-order breakfast), we’ve negotiated a block of rooms at a reduced rate. You can call them directly at 847-292-3531 to make a reservation.

We’d love to have you join us.

 

Thursdays with Amanda: How to Throw a Book Launch Party

September 20th, 2013 | Conferences, Marketing and Platforms, Self-Publishing | 22 Comments

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. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Well, it’s not Thursday…it’s Friday, but for the sake of Brand you’ll have to suffer through my wrongly-titled post.

We’re all back from ACFW, which proved to be a bunch of fun, as always, but also quite interesting in terms of industry stuff. But something happened there that rarely ever happens at any conference…ever.

A literary agency threw a launch party.

You may have heard/read me talk about Playlist Fiction. In thinking about how to help the authors create awareness and buzz we considered what most publishers/authors consider. We considered running an ad. But let’s face it:

1. Ads are expensive

2. Ads get buried by other ads

3. Ads are forgetful

So when Chip asked me what my ideal method of creating buzz at ACFW would be, I said a party! Which of course meant it became my responsibility, but I took it on happily.

Here’s how I did it…

  • We got some big names to agree to attend, and we asked them to read excerpts from the books our authors did
  • We created invites (we had a Facebook event page, a physical paper invite, and we hit up the big My Book Therapy e-blast as well as a few blogs)
  • We secured a local venue (Buca di Beppo) and promised free dessert (I mean hello! ACFW is 90% women. There was no way we could lose here)
  • We got the go-ahead from the conference directors and made sure that our time slot wouldn’t interfere with ANYTHING
  • We unashamedly mentioned the party during the agent panel that took place immediately before
  • We put together the schedule of events and designated responsibility…which included some last-minute favors
  • We handed out invites as much as we could during the day leading up to the event

Here’s how it went…

    • We planned for 40. We saw 86 people come and go within the 1.5 hour time slot
    • Editors from major houses dropped by.
    • Marketing professionals dropped by.
    • Big name authors dropped by.
    • And lots of attendees dropped by.
    • It created lots of buzz. Lots of questions. People wanted to know what we were doing and how it worked. Many felt tied to one of our authors simply based on meeting them or hearing the excerpt. It was great publicity. Great buzz.

Here’s what else we did…

  1. I created an ebook sampler and posted it on Amazon
  2. During the 5 days of ACFW (Sept. 13-17) we offered it for FREE, and the QR code in the invite took people directly to the download page
  3. In the days leading up to the event, I asked the authors to uncover as many niche blogs as they could. This meant uncovering reader groups within their core reader group. Teens who love Horses was one. Another was Asian-American Teens. The authors then went out and secured as many blogging opportunities as they could, focusing not just on big blogs but on small ones as well. Their goalwas to highlight the fact that their book directly appealed to the blog readership.
Above: Bestselling author Tosca Lee with Playlist author Rajdeep Paulus.
Above: author Nicole O’Dell, author Melissa Tagg, Playlist author Laura L. Smith…and the back of Chip’s head maybe??

More results…

It was an absolute whirlwind, and I wouldn’t suggest trying to put something together like this in such a narrow time frame (we had 1.5 months). But it was great experience for the authors, as now they know that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to improve your rank on Amazon. It also established and validated what we’re doing. People are talking and asking questions. Editors and readers and publishers are curious.

AND free food always goes over better than a well-designed ad.

ALWAYS.

Plus, it’s cheaper.


That’s Chip, me, and Playlist author Rajdeep.

____________________

*Love my marketing advice? Check out my $5 ebook, The Extroverted Writer.

Here’s what readers are saying: ”…it doesn’t just tell you the things you should be doing. It shows you how to do those things.” - Chris Kolmorgen, Amazon Review

What’s the best way to approach an editor at a conference?

August 21st, 2013 | Agents, Conferences, Questions from Beginners, The Writing Craft | 30 Comments

I’ve been trying to catch up on all the questions people have sent in, so let me share a handful of queries: “When speaking with an editor at a conference, what is the best way to approach the allotted 15 minutes? Do I focus on the editor and the titles she’s worked on? Do I focus on my novel? Do I bring a one sheet?”

The best way to approach your time at an editorial appointment is to do some research and practice. Check to make sure the editor you’re meeting actually acquires books in your genre. Find out what you can about the editor’s likes and dislikes. Then practice what you’re going to say — sharing your name, your book idea, the conflict, theme, genre,and  hook. Be clear and succinct, and rehearse your talk out loud, so you know what it feels like to say the words. Be ready to engage in dialogue with the editor. Dress professionally, and bring some words to show them (many like a one-sheet; I prefer the first five pages). In my view, the focus of a successful editorial appointment is your book, so think through how to talk about your book in an engaging way without sounding like just another pitch.

Another person wrote to ask, “Should I pay more attention to a literary agent’s list of authors they represent, or to their agency’s list of authors? In other words, if a Big Deal Agency has bestselling authors, how much does that mean if the agent I’m talking to doesn’t represent any of those writers?”

That’s an interesting question, since every agency tries to promote their bestselling authors. I was at Alive Communications when we represented the Left Behind series that sold 70 million copies worldwide — and while I didn’t have much of anything to do with that series, I certainly mentioned that we represented it when I was a young agent introducing myself. How much does that mean? A bit, since it means the agent you’re talking to is hanging out with successful agents who clearly know what they’re doing, even if the one you’re pitching your book to is new. That agent also gets to take your book back and talk with the more experienced people in the home office about it, so there’s certainly a benefit to working with a successful agency. But sure, you’d really like to make sure the agent you’re talking to is competent, organized, and consistent. A new agent may lack the Big Name Author you’re looking for… but he or she also may have more time to work with you in preparing your work for publication.

One writer sent this: “What would you say are the ingredients to a great novel?”

Bestselling novelist Susan May Warren and I just taught a class together on this at the Oregon conference. We said that the four hallmarks of a great novel are heroism (the protagonist does something that is considered heroic, and does it even though that type of behavior may not come naturally to them), sacrifice (the character gives up something dear to them in order to better the life of someone else), redemption (the characters go through circumstances that change them, and reveals they have become better people, having overcome past failures), and justice (good triumphs over evil). Of course, in great fiction I find that characters I care about face the big questions of life (who am I? why am I here? who is God? what is the meaning of life? who do I love and am loved by?) and make decisions that affect their lives — decisions I may or may not agree with, but which cause me to reflect on my own life.  It’s that sort of reflection that allows fiction to become life-changing.

Someone asked me, “You talk quite a bit about mentors in writing and publishing. Who would you say was a mentor in your life?”

Brennan Manning. He was much more gentle than I am, and I love how he always tried to move everyone around him toward being better people. He saw faith in God as something real to be lived out, rather than a set of written behavioral guidelines to follow. He was aware of his own issues, but understood that his problems didn’t exclude him from the Kingdom. And he recognized that he was put here on earth – that we are ALL put here on earth – to be agents of grace, even amidst our sin and struggles. I used to be Brennan’s agent, and when I was turning 40, he shared a profound thought with me– that most people stop growing spiritually before their 40th birthday. Most guys are who they are by the time they reach middle age. So he challenged me to be a better human being by the time I was 50, and to not be satisfied with “just being okay” in my spiritual walk. Loved the man. And he was a mystic, which pleases me no end, since I think a lot of American Christianity is rule-based Phariseeism, all dressed up in a white shirt and hair gel – no concern for others, solely focused on being “right,” and afraid of the spiritual side of grace. Brennan continually tweaked those people, but always seemed to answer them with loving, gentle grace. He left us just a few months ago, and the two of us had lost touch, but I think the world has lost one of its most powerful thinkers.

Finally, someone asked, “If you were to write a book, what would it be about?”

Well, I’ve written a number of books, but I long ago decided to set most of my own writing aside in order to work on the writing of the authors I have the privilege of representing. I do write on this blog most every day, just to keep my hand in it. And I’ve got a plan to create a career development guide for novelists, hopefully in the not-too-distant future. I’ve also been stewing on some short stories about growing up in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, and I have long planned to work on a book about the Great Schism of 1378 – a passion of mine for years, and one of the single most important events in the history of the church, but long forgotten by historians who prefer to focus on “war” rather than “ideas.”

Got a question about writing or publishing? Send it along and we’ll try to think up an answer.