Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Questions you’d ask an agent…

April 1st, 2014 | Agents, Career, CBA, Current Affairs, Film, Publishing, Questions from Beginners, Self-Publishing, The Business of Writing | 7 Comments

So this month we’re going to let you ask whatever you’ve always wanted to ask a literary agent. You send me the questions (or stick them in the “comments” section), and I’ll try to answer them, or get another agent to answer them. First up, some questions that came in yesterday…

Suppose you have a character in your novel that would be perfect for a particular actor. Should you tell your agent about it and let them handle it?

You could… but it probably won’t get very far. It’s rare that a project gets pitched to an actor in a role, unless it’s a major actor with clout. (So, for example, if you had a role that was perfect for Leonardo DiCaprio, you could try and talk with his agent. Um, and you would be author #5962 who has the “perfect” role for him.)

If I have an agent, then decide to write a self-pubbed novel, how can I include my agent in the process?

This is one of the things happening in publishing these days that is still in process, so there’s no one right answer for every situation. You could ask your agent to help you with it — the editing, the copyediting, the formatting, the uploading, the cover, etc., then pay a percentage as a commission. OR you could see if your agent is producing a line of books, make it part of that line, and pay a certain commission to him or her. (For example, we’re helping our authors create a co-op line of clean romances.) OR you could do it all yourself and not pay the agent anything. OR you could do it yourself, but work with your agent to help with things like marketing and selling, and pay a commission.

I am brand new to the industry, and delving into the potential of writing fiction. So what are the first steps in identifying the right agent, reaching out and establishing that agent/author relationship, and writing and getting a publisher to release the first novel?

Okay, the first step is to learn to write. That might seem too simplistic, but without a great manuscript, you’re not going to land an agent, editor, or publishing deal. This is particularly true in fiction, where a debut novelist will not be getting a deal without a completed manuscript. So I’d recommend you complete your manuscript, then join a critique group to get some other eyes on it, listen to what other writers have to say, and eventually talk with a good fiction editor about what needs to be done in order to create a great manuscript. You should know that the average number of completed manuscripts an author creates is SIX before he or she lands a publishing deal.

As for the next steps, once your manuscript is ready, you’ll probably find it’s easiest to connect to agents either face to face at a writing conference (check the conference website to see which agents are attending, then do some research to see who is there that might be a fit for your novel), or through a friend. I find the majority of authors I currently represent were introduced to me by authors I already represent. Once you’ve got a great manuscript and an agent, you’ll be off and running.

Do you think Christian fiction is where Christian music was a couple decades ago – where certain music was deemed “UnChristian” or was too controversial to be accepted by the mainstream? My opinion is that after all that type of controversy cleared out, Christian music got really good. Or maybe it was vice versa — the music got better and then the controversy died.

I’ve had various forms of this question asked of me quite a bit recently. (For those who don’t know, we represent a lot of inspirational fiction, as well as general market fiction.) I can see why you might think that, but I don’t believe the two situations are analogous. Contemporary Christian music was faced with having to break out of the narrow, church-youth-group type of audience, so some performers (Any Grant is a great example) was criticized as being “too worldly” when she began doing music that was not strictly about Jesus or her spiritual life. Eventually contemporary Christian music saw a bunch of performers bust out, much of it became part of the mainstream, and the entire industry saw the financials change as it moved away from full CD’s and toward single-title downloads — so most music performers these days make the bulk of their money from concerts and other live venues, rather than from music sales.

Book publishing is going through a different change. We’re still selling complete projects (books, not just chapters), but the vehicles are altered. A reader can download an ebook from Amazon, or buy a printed book at Barnes & Noble, and each choice is unique. The end result is different, the delivery mechanism is different, the marketing is different, the basic audiences are different… and that’s why I keep telling people that we need to see digital books as completely separate projects from printed books. (Whereas music was music, no matter how it arrived in the customer’s hands.) The advent of ebooks has led to a ton of startup companies, a revision in royalties, a scaling back in advances, a decline in intermediaries, more crud on the market, but more opportunity to make money for authors. A seminal shift in publishing. But back to your question — No, I don’t think we’re seeing authors being viewed as “unChristian,” so much as we’re seeing a combination of more publishing categories for CBA fiction, declining overall sales for the legacy CBA fiction publishers, and a desire to play it safe (which is why Christian fiction is swimming in romances, but has a limited number of new literary titles being released by major houses). There is still a place for thoughtful inspirational fiction, but right now that’s become tougher to sell to traditional publishing houses.

Got a question you’ve always wanted to ask a literary agent? Sent it along and I’ll get to it shortly.

Thursdays with Amanda: The Cheater’s Way to a Viral Video

February 20th, 2014 | Film, Marketing and Platforms, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

2014AmandaAmanda 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.

Last week I tried to tackle the components of a viral video…I say “tried” because that’s exactly what it was. An attempt to wrangle something that is so elusive for so many.

But I also promised that there were alternatives to the high-budget, high production suggestions that I made. Now these alternatives aren’t magical, and many of you will still walk away feeling like videos are impossible. And that’ fine! Videos are not necessary to sell books. I think Divergent‘s terrible book trailer proved that. But for those of you who are wanting to give it a go, here are some ideas…


There’s this site called 99designs. You upload your information and needs and then graphic designers from all over compete for your business. They present their designs and then you can actually have friends vote on their favorites. You then pay the winning designer something like $299 and that’s that. You have your design, and that designer has a bit of cash.

Why can’t we do this with viral videos?!

In college I was part of a number of “videos.” Someone on campus would have a camera and they’d write a script and we’d go out and film. Once I was even co-writer/co-director/co-actor of a video that we entered into the campus film festival! (We won most creative, by the way). My point is COLLEGE KIDS LOVE CREATING VIDEOS. And they’re pretty good at it. Especially if they’re part of a film program.

There are two options here…


Most professors are looking for ways to get their students real-life experience. I remember in college we did quite a bit of work for local nonprofits. It gave us resume fodder, and it gave the nonprofits free research or creative work. There’s no reason you can’t try this approach.

Find a local college with a film or marketing program and talk to either the department head or one of the professors about utilizing your need for a viral video as an in-class project. The specifics would need to be worked out, and maybe at the end of the semester you could bring in pizza for everyone. But the idea is simple. You’re offering these future videographers and marketers a chance to create something that will be used in the real world. And all you have to do is offer a bit of direction.


College students are always looking to make a buck…especially if it involves doing something they see as fun. Similar to the 99designs approach, you could hold a campus-wide competition. You offer specifics and guidelines and then the students create the videos. Then, you choose a winner. Offer a $300 or $500 grand prize and I’m sure you’d get some submissions. Of course you’d have to clear this whole thing with the school first, but it’s worth a shot. I mean think about it…you wouldn’t have to do a single thing except get students interested, provide them with information, and then sit back and choose your winning video.


The latest craze is to create Vines…these are 7-second videos that are for the most part blatantly home-made. But there are some real gems and they are VERY shareable. If you’re looking for a down and dirty approach with more of a hard sell angle, then this could be for you. And I don’t see why this approach couldn’t be coupled with either of the suggestions above. I mean can you imagine having a class of film students create a dozen Vines for you to use as promotional tools? Pretty cool.

(In addition to the Vine videos, Instagram now has a video feature).


If I were an author, I’d probably pursue one of these options, because even though I have a creative mind, I don’t know my way around the camera as well as a film student. And having been in a number of marketing classes, I can attest to the awesome level of work that those students are capable of.

However, I wouldn’t begin any of this until I had a book deal, a release date, and a solid plan for how I’d create awareness for the video.

So that’s where I fall..but what about you? What’s your plan? Video? No video? Let me know!

Love my marketing ideas? Check out my book!Extroverted Banner


Thursdays with Amanda: What Goes In To A Viral Video

February 13th, 2014 | Film, Marketing and Platforms | 3 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.

We’ve spent the past few weeks talking about viral videos. Last week, we looked at the difference between exciting and…not-so-exciting book trailers. This week, we’re unpacking the “How-to” behind a great video. Now, it’s not rocket science, so if you were expecting a magic formula, I’m sorry to disappoint. But at the same time, I think it’s doable. It’s feasible. Viral videos can be a freak phenomenon for sure, but at the same time there are clear ways to increasing your chances of experiencing that very viralness.

So now that we have a sort of understanding, here’s my list of essentials for a video to go viral:

  • Know what you’re selling. Are you peddling a book? An in-store event? A writers conference? Your editing services? Figure out the driving force behind the video. The more specific, the better.
  • Choose your emotion. The only reason viral videos get shared and watched is because they cause the viewer to FEEL something. Most viral videos cause laughter. Some are suspenseful and put the viewer in a state of unease. Some, like the Budweiser Puppy Love commercial, create a sense of sadness and, later, warm fuzziness. Consider the type of emotional response you want from your viewers, and while you’re doing that…
  • Create your concept. Here’s where your creative juices should come in handy. You’ll want to come up with something unique…something creative that will entertain viewers while highlighting whatever it is you’re selling. Writing a video is no different than writing a novel, really. You’ll want to plan it out with a script and even storyboards. You’ll want a beginning, middle, and an end. And you’ll want it to be fairly short (under 2 minutes is ideal). And remember! Keep the focus on the concept, not the product. No one would enjoy the Puppy Love commercial if it kept flashing to frothy beer mugs and inebriated cowboys.
  • Secure the essentials. Will you need actors? Props? A set? You’ll definitely need a great camera. All of this quickly adds up, and the cost alone will probably have most deciding that creating a video isn’t for them. But I’m a firm believer that with the right help and a bit of effort, you can come away with a video that is relatively inexpensive to make. Utilize the people around you.
  • Don’t skimp on editing. Okay, here’s the truth…a great concept even if poorly executed still has a chance at going viral. To increase your viral chances, pair a great concept with great execution. Find someone who knows how to operate a camera and video editing software. This is where it can get very pricy, but there’s no rule that says you can’t work out some kind of deal. Trade services for services. Or agree to watch the guy’s kids every Saturday night for a month. The point is, if you don’t have hundreds or even thousands to throw at someone who knows their way around video-making, then it’s time to get creative and see if you can strike a deal.
  • Back the video with a marketing plan. Most book trailers flop because they get uploaded to YouTube, and there they sit. The author may share them on social media, but there really isn’t a plan for promotion. It’s as if the video itself is the promotional plan. And it’s pretty obvious that a video isn’t able to get views by just sitting there (just like books don’t get sold by simply existing in the Amazon black hole). So you want some sort of campaign to spread the word as fast as possible in hopes that the content will click and people will start sharing.


  • Puppies = Internet fame. If you can include a puppy or a dog (or a cat), DO IT.
  • Don’t forget to get release forms signed by anyone appearing in your video. I haven’t researched this very much, so I’m not sure what the rules are, but it seems smart to cover your bases.
  • Babies = Internet fame.
  • Special effects are iffy. Trick photography is great…but CGI animation done by an amateur is dangerous territory. You want people to laugh or cry WITH your video. Not AT it.
  • Bad acting is probably worse than bad special effects. It’s tempting to tell your niece that she can be in your video. I mean she’s family! And she’s a cute teenager! So what’s the harm? Before telling ANYONE that they can be in your video, you’ll want to find out of they can actually act. Consider skipping family auditions and going to your local Players Club or theatre to root up some trained actors. You’ll save yourself a lot of headache and awkward family conversations.

Okay, so you might be reading this and panicking. I mean who has time for this?! It seems that creating a video is almost as hard as writing a novel!! And it took you what, 5 years to finish your opus? Factoring in the learning curve, creating a viral video should take you 4-7 years.

If this is your thought process, FEAR NOT. I have a way better solution that is most likely what I would do if I were you…but I’ll save that for next week. Because I’m mean like that. And because I’ve already written way too much.

Thursdays with Amanda: Divergent vs Miss Peregrine – Book Trailer Edition

February 6th, 2014 | Film, Marketing and Platforms | 7 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.

Last week, I showed you a bunch of viral videos, and we talked about how most book trailers don’t deliver on a great experience, and then they fail to become even remotely close to viral.

But let’s really dig in here. Let’s really take a look at book trailers and what works and what doesn’t.

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth was one of the most-read series of the past few years. It’s a dystopian YA story that followed on THE HUNGER GAMES’s coattails (though maybe unintentionally) and now has movies and merch and all that good stuff.

But despite being a smash hit, its book trailer looks like most book trailers. It’s flat. Simple. It does the job, but it doesn’t do the one thing that all viral videos do…it doesn’t cause you to want to talk about it or share it with anyone. Here it is:

On the flip side, we have MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs. This book came from a mid-sized house (instead of the machine that is HarperCollins). It also is a middle grade/YA novel about weird things. But its trailer offers an experience that gets you, the reader, EXCITED about the book:

WOW, am I right?

So here’s how the numbers look…

DIVERGENT has sold a ton of books. Like a bazillion. On Goodreads alone it is rated almost 585,000 times. So a smash hit, for sure.

Its book trailer has been watched 215,000 times since the book released in May 2011. To me, that number is a bit dismal, considering all of the hype and fandom…AND considering the book is written to teens, an audience seemingly most likely to “click and watch.”

MISS PEREGRINE has sold well, but not nearly as well as Divergent. On Goodreads it has 167,800 ratings.

But get this…its book trailer has been watched 350,000 times. Nearly twice as many people have watched the trailer than have rated the book on Goodreads. I’d say that’s viral, and when you compare the Peregrine video with the Divergent video, it’s obviously the better one. It makes you want to share it. It makes you want to talk about it.

All of those shares and all of those watches may not translate into immediate sales, but they do translate into awareness. I know that I was much more aware of Miss Peregrine than I was the Divergent series. And I’ve read Miss Peregrine, while I’ve yet to read Divergent.

So that says something.

Oh, and both books released in May of 2011.

Here’s another example, and then I’ll quit…John Green’s book THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is a major best seller. Like hugely so. On Goodreads it has been rated 510,000 times. But its trailer? It’s nothing spectacular and it’s been watched 227,500 times. Which makes sense…it’s better than the Divergent trailer, but not as good as the Miss Peregrine one.

I know I was going to talk about the HOW behind a viral video, but I wanted the picture I’m painting to be very clear.

  • You don’t need a great trailer to have a best seller. DIVERGENT proves that. In fact, Divergent would probably have done just fine without a trailer at all. So the idea that trailer=great marketing plan is just false. A GREAT trailer equals a great marketing plan. A bad trailer is NOT a marketing plan.
  • If you DO happen to have a great trailer, it can really help a book gain visibility, as was proven with MISS PEREGRINE. Though the book has been outsold by Divergent time and again, its trailer did a way better job of getting the word out and creating buzz.

Okay, enough theory. Next week, I promise there will be to-dos and steps.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever found a great trailer and then bought the book?

Thursdays with Amanda: Viral Videos

January 30th, 2014 | Film, Marketing and Platforms | 8 Comments

2014AmandaAmanda 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. Today, it is on sale for $2.99…check it out!

Oh, the book trailer…The minute-long visual of stock photography that dances across the screen to the beat movie scores, voiceovers, and sound effects.

Publishers create them. Authors adore them. But readers?

Readers ignore them.

I get it. Having a book trailer is like this announcement that you’ve arrived. For most, it’s the closest thing to a movie trailer that the author will ever get, and so it’s special.

But it’s also a waste of money. Why? Because it’s a minute-long advertisement that is usually the equivalent of a locally made commercial. Just take a moment to think about those local commercials…when was the last time you watched one and thought to yourself, “I just HAVE to look up C&C Heating and Air Conditioning!”

Probably never. So if book trailers are similar to these local commercials, the likelihood of someone watching one and then becoming interested in your book is so, so, so, so low.

But still…



When done right, video can make viewers respond in positive ways. Let’s take the Oikos commercials with John Stamos. They’re a tad funny and a lot nostalgic for those of us who remember Uncle Jesse and obsessed over ER. So all in all, they’re decent commercials. But they are still advertisements.

How do you take an advertisement and turn it viral?


Viral videos happen when a video of any sort (whether a home video, a stunt, a performance, etc), catches on with the general public. Now remember, people aren’t enticed by run-of-the-mill ads. They want to be entertained. They want to laugh, cry, FEEL. They want to respond.

More and more, I’m seeing companies understand what it takes to create a viral video advertisement, and it’s clear that viral videos fall into three categories.



If scripted, the videos are elaborately thought-out. Oikos, for example, has stepped things up a notch and they have an entire playlist of videos that include not only John Stamos, but his Full House cohorts. These are meant to go viral, because who doesn’t want to see Danny, Joey, and Jesse hang out?

Another example of the scripted viral ad comes from Old Spice. They are constantly inventing crazy video campaigns that are funny, freaky, disturbing, and awesome.

But these are all major companies! What does a scripted viral advertisement look like when it’s just regular people behind it? Well, it looks a lot like that viral video that everyone was sharing this holiday season: Christmas Jammies:



Some horror movies have grabbed on to the idea of creating a rather elaborate practical joke, and then running the joke on complete strangers who are being videotaped.

You can see examples here:

Again, it’s a pretty ridiculous set-up. It’s expensive and time-consuming. So I was happy to see this ad pop up some weeks ago. It’s nothing more than some musicians, surprising a bus full of people. It captures the same results (everyday people who are on the receiving end of a “prank”) and just like in those above examples, it isn’t until the end that you find out it’s an ad.



Lastly, you have your category of completely random home videos, including ones that are entirely  unplanned as well as videos that are slightly planned but fully reliant upon the subjects coming through and delivering whatever was expected of them.

Dogs welcoming soldiers home after months of being away.

Kids who are on their way home from the dentist and are coming out of the drugged-up stupor.

Babies who do funny things in response to music or movement or pets.

These videos, like the ones above, can also go viral.



It’s time we think beyond the book trailer. It’s time we aim for viral videos within publishing and stop settling for book trailers that do nothing and go nowhere. Viral vids aren’t easy, and they’re rarely cheap. But they can be a more effective way of getting books…products…in front of thousands and thousands and potentially millions of people.

Viral videos do not have to be 100% random. They can be planned. They can be intentional. They can be thought-out and implemented. And over the next week or so, I’d like to take a stab at unpacking what goes into these videos in hopes that the figurative light bulb goes off and then you, my friend, end up with a hit.




The Art of Fireproofing

October 7th, 2008 | Film | 52 Comments

On this blog, I have regularly commented about art and faith — more specificially, calling for people of faith to do a great job when creating art, since I think it's too easy for believers to be lazy about their craft. Think about it — if you can claim "I'm doing this for the glory of God," then maybe that trumps any discussion of the value of your work. If your art is "God's work," who has the right to question your ability?

I mention this because I've been hearing from Christians that I need to go see the movie "Fireproof" — a Christian film that has received fairly wide play in theaters. Several Christian writers encouraged me to go, since the film has a strong message and is directed at a good cause. I'll admit I didn't do any preparation for the movie, but instead just showed up so I could take it in and see what the fuss is all about. It turns out it's another one of those films that was written and produced by Christians who have convinced themselves that they're at the top of their game because they have a strong "message." We used to refer to these as "church basement films," since the Billy Graham Association would produce them, then they'd be shown in church basements everywhere, giving believers a chance to nod in agreement with the message and thereby making us feel like we've accomplished something great.

Since there is a big "faith and film" conference going on right now, I'd like to offer some thoughts on "Fireproof" from an artistic viewpoint…

1. Kirk Cameron can't act. Come on…they cast Kirk as the tough captain of a Firehouse? He's a soft metrosexual type. What next — he's going to cast himself as an NBA center? The guy is completely unbelievable in the shout/be-angry/get-in-the-men's-faces portions of the film. In addition, he always LOOKS like he's acting. The fight scenes with his wife seem fake.  The "place your hands over your face so it will look like you're emotionally struggling" business simply looks like he couldn't figure out what to do in the deeper portions of the movie. Good grief — why don't we admit the guy wasn't that good 20 years ago on TV's "Growing Pains," so we don't need to fool ourselves into thinking he's suddenly a talent because he's a good guy who loves his wife and is open about his faith? Kirk Cameron IS a good guy, but his acting in this film isn't good enough to star in a movie. And the fact that Christians like him shouldn't blind them to that. (And, let's face it, his acting in the "Left Behind" movies was downright horrible. Egad.)

2. The rest of the cast is awful. The firemen working under Captain Kirk's command are right out of high school acting class. The mom has all the emotional range of a piece of wood. The dad is the guy who used to pastor your church. The doctor has a nice smile, but only two looks — coy and furtive. Kirk's wife, played by Erin Bethea, is sweet but flat and simply looks like she's in over her head. The one group of people in this film who can actually act are the nurses, who seem to be just extras filling roles.

3. The script is amateurish. Okay, I realize the goal of this movie is commendable, and that commitment to marriage is a good thing, but reflect on the script for minute… The firemen provide comic relief that has nothing to do with the story. The scenes with the next-door neighbor are cute, but get predictable. In fact, the entire film is predictable, since any of us could have foretold what was going to unfold with the story ("he'll become a Christian and win her back"). The film hints at issues in the relationship (finances? internet porn?) without ever exploring them. The religion is so heavy-handed it's like watching a tract. There's no subtlety to the story — it's a couple fights, she flirts with an affair, then he finds religion and all is well. Name one other bit of conflict in the movie. The whole thing comes across as a 70's TV show, with simple sets and a straightforward story that gets resolved in 90 minutes. From a story perspective, it has all the texture of a genre romance novel, only without the strong sense of place. At no point did I ever get lost in the story, and forget I was sitting in a movie theater. (In fact, I was 15 minutes into this when I turned to my wife and said, "I can't believe we spent $13 for a film that we'll be able to rent for 99 cents in a couple weeks.")

4. There were some good parts. The music and cinematography were very professional. The car caught on the railroad tracks and the child inside the burning house actually created some tension — but let's face it, neither of those stories had anything to do with the major plotline of the film, nor did either help move the film along. The ending of the movie was touching. While Kirk can't act, he cries well, and that was affecting. The last 30 minutes were much better than the first 45.

5. The message overcomes the art. Here's something True Believers sometimes miss: When you've got a good message ("marriage is good"), the goodness of that message doesn't validate the art. The fact that a couple are fighting and make decisions to turn around their relationship is a fine basis for a movie, but this one doesn't explore that in any deeper way. And the fact that Christians made it, and didn't stumble over themselves while doing so, does not automatically redeem the movie. (I point that out because the "Left Behind" movies were awful — the last one was such a dog it shed hair on my DVD player.) I think "a lack of badness" doesn't translate into "genuine goodness." The fact is, I found the spiritual message to be heavy-handed and dull, relying on Christianese so that this really becomes a film Christians can go to and feel good about themselves, rather than a film that might actually persuade someone outside the faith.  

Now let me tell you what's going to happen: I'm about to be swamped with messages from True Believers, exclaiming how the film moved them, and saved their marriage, and their best friends went and it saved their marriage as well. Maybe. But anecdotal stories don't create truth. (I can introduce you to people who said their lives changed when they joined a cult, or danced with the Hare Krishna, or when they became atheists, so one person's testimony doesn't necessarily validate a principle.) As I said, there's some actual emotion generated at the end of the film. But this movie lacks substance and subtlety. It lacks texture and finesse. It lacks decent acting and writing. It doesn't suck you in or transport you to another place. And while it offers a fine overall message, that doesn't make up for the fact that the film is not that great. So please don't write to tell me how Billy-Bob's life was spared when he entered the theater, and that he gave up drinking and got baptized and re-committed his life to Christ before entering the priesthood. If you must respond, just tell me what worked or didn't work about the film.