Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Thursdays with Amanda: How to Become a Hybrid Author

April 10th, 2014 | Self-Publishing, Uncategorized | 5 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.

A couple weeks ago, I shared one of my oddities…whenever I hear “hybrid author” I can’t help but think of the movie Underworld. As silly as the post was, I stand by it 100%. The similarities between hybrid authors and the vampire-werewolf hybrid depicted in the movie are shockingly and hilariously real, folks. Real. Real. Real.

And hybrid authors ARE taking over in a weird sense. They may not be the majority (yet), and all of them certainly aren’t millionaires, but they’re happy. And they’re profitable. And that’s a major WIN, folks. A huge win.

So how do they do it? How do you become this mystical creature? This Hybrid Author?

It looks a bit different for everyone, but for authors who have started on the traditional side and are considering making the leap, here are some thoughts…

HOW TRADITIONAL AUTHORS BECOME HYBRIDS

First, you need an author career with some sort of momentum. Maybe you have a couple books that are contracted or maybe you have releases lined up every six months or every year for the next few years? The logistics don’t matter so much as the fact that you are publishing with a traditional publishing house (one that can and does get books into bookstores) and will continue to do so.

When you have this, here’s how you make the switch…

1. Take a look at your contracts. Look specifically at the Non-Compete clause. You don’t want to end up in a situation where your publisher feels as though your self-pubbed books are competing with your traditionally-pubbed books. You will also want to start negotiating this clause going forward to get it where you can comfortably pursue a self-publishing side-career while traditionally publishing. This is where an agent comes in handy.

2. Map out your traditional pub release dates. Check to see how much time you have between releases. There needs to be enough of a cushion between each release so that a) the publisher doesn’t point to the non-compete clause, and b) you can adequately market each book. Again, this is where an agent comes in handy! We know how to finesse things and make them work…and we know how to keep everyone happy.

3. Plan self-pub releases to hit when you have a significant gap between traditional releases. And remember, you want there to be plenty of time BEFORE and AFTER a traditional release during which you’re giving all of your marketing energy to THAT BOOK.

4. Price your self-published books in a way that even if your publisher complains about competing works, you can make the argument that a $2.99 novel off of Amazon is in no way hitting the same market as your $14.99 trade paperback.

5. Consider creating a clear separation in which you use a different pen name and even write in a different genre for your self-published stuff. This can be as simple as going from Author Sally Davis to S.E. Davis. You can create a home for both of your personas on your website so long as they have separate pages and social media accounts.

6. Consider self-publishing only shorter works. This is not only another way to skirt the non-compete clause, but it allows you to more quickly crank out the self-pub content so that you don’t end up with it taking time away from your book deadlines.

7. Market ALL of your books whenever possible. This means listing your traditionally published books in the back of your self-pubbed work. It also means bring both books to events. What you don’t want to do, though, is highlight your self-pubbed books more than you highlight your traditional books. It’s an easy way to make your publisher mad and also to communicate to readers that your self-pubbed books are more important. They aren’t. Your traditional books are more important because they are providing a marketing angle that nothing else can…they are in bookstores!

8. Be classy. Don’t brag about what you’re doing, but don’t keep it a secret either. You can be confident in your hybrid status and yet remain a loud voice for traditional publishing. The last thing you want to do is bite the hand that feeds. Unless you don’t want that hand anymore. To which I say be careful about going all King Joffrey on Ned Stark.

9. Be professional. DO NOT THROW BOOKS ONTO THE INTERNET WITHOUT PAYING FOR THEM TO BE EDITED, PROOFED, AND DESIGNED. It’s a major career risk to do this, and it will end your self-publishing career before it gets a chance to get off the ground.

10. Be smart. The most successful hybrid authors are the ones treating it like a business. Fact is, if you slap up some content and wait around for sales, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Self-publishing is hard work. It’s harder than traditional publishing, because you’re doing everything yourself. So don’t be flippant about it. And if it’s not for you, that’s okay. 

Having an agent really comes in handy if you’re thinking about making this leap. Your agent can help you navigate your publishing relationships while also giving you advice on when and how and what to self-publish. So if this is something you’re considering, the first thing to do is call up your agent and run the idea by them. They may try to talk you out of it! And you’ll need to hear them out, because they may have a great reason as to why this won’t work for you. But I think many agents these days are open to letting authors explore the possibilities. So give them a call and see what they say!

Do you have plans to go Hybrid? Or maybe you’ve already taken the leap? Tell me about it?

 

Thursdays With Amanda: Lessons from a Bygone Hybrid Author (guest post by Erin Buterbaugh)

April 3rd, 2014 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

First, let the record show that I thought Amanda’s Underworld/hybrid author analogy last week should win some sort of prize for awesomeness; if you missed it, you should take a moment to scroll down the page five posts or so and catch up on the definition of a hybrid author and his similarity to a vampire/lycan crossbreed. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Alright, now that everyone’s on the same page— today, I want to look at someone I would argue could be described as the original hybrid author, Charles Dickens, and the lessons hybrid authors of today can take away from his experiences.

Charles Dickens, like many authors (as well as most of the MacGregor Literary agents) began his writing career as a freelance journalist, contributing articles, sketches, and stories to various London newspapers and magazines. When he started writing novels, Dickens of course followed the prescribed formula for success as a novelist and severed all his ties to periodicals, instead devoting his time to finishing his manuscript, polishing his query letter, and securing an agent.

Wait. No, he didn’t.

As you probably already knew, the majority of Charles Dickens’ work was actually first published in serial form in newspapers and literary magazines. What is less commonly known is that Dickens himself was the editor and part-or-full-owner of most of the periodicals that his work appeared in—the man virtually self-published the majority of his novels. Dickens used his position as editor of the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany to serially publish his second novel, Oliver Twist, and when he had a falling-out with the magazine’s owner, Dickens left his position as editor and started another magazine, called Master Humphrey’s Clock, written and edited entirely by himself. When Dickens, for a number of reasons which I refuse to do the correct amount of research to be able to annotate and recount with strict academic accuracy, got tired of Master Humphrey’s Clock, he moved on to start Household Words, a magazine he both edited and half-owned. When Dickens decided even a 50% share in the publication didn’t give him enough freedom as an author and editor, (stay with me, I promise there’s a point to this fascinating history of British literary magazines), he started yet ANOTHER magazine, All the Year Round, which he would own and edit until his death.

The moral of this long story is that Charles Dickens didn’t wait for a traditional publisher to agree to publish his novels in their entirety. In most cases, he didn’t even wait until he’d completed a novel to begin publishing it (as evidenced by several of his more meandering works, in which it’s abundantly clear to discerning readers that the man simply drew heartrending plot developments out of a hat at random to determine the course of a character’s story while he figured out how he wanted to end it).  Now, if his story ended with the serial publication of his work, we couldn’t classify Dickens as a hybrid author—he would be the 1800’s equivalent of a highly successful blogger, whose material existed in hundreds of bite-sized chunks which dedicated fans could collect but which were unwieldy and generally didn’t enjoy a life beyond the initial readership of the magazine. But because his works were published in book form by traditional publishers of the day after their serialization, they went on to enjoy much greater circulation, many more sales, and unmatched longevity (“so let this be said of us, and all of us,” to quote Mr. Dickens). So, let’s look at Dickens’ career arc and pick out some of the key components to his success as a hybrid author.

A successful hybrid author uses traditional publishing to find his readers (or to prompt his readers to find him).

Charles Dickens won over his initial fan base with his traditionally published work—writing for established magazines and papers with an existing readership and a means of distribution allowed his work to reach a much greater readership than if he’d begun with a self-owned-and-edited paper. He didn’t have to figure out how to sell his stories to thousands of people, he only had to sell to one person (an editor) and then the machine of the magazine took over, distributing his words to thousands of people already identified by the publisher as being interested in reading stories. In the same way, modern publishers have systems of getting your book in front of the people who will be the most interested in it that you and I would have a hard time replicating, no matter how many blog tours we do or Goodreads ads we buy.

Once that initial group has seen (and liked) your work, however, they will start looking for you- in Dickens’ day, that group sought him out by writing letters to the publications requesting more from the author, and by buying the papers he appeared in hoping to find more of his stories. In the Internet age, readers seek you out simply by Googling you and looking to see what other material you have for sale, and that’s where having some self-published titles available can both bring in some extra money and ensnare (er, I mean, “attract”) more readers, people who might forget about you if they had to wait two more years for your next traditionally-published book to appear but who enjoyed your last book and are ready to spend a few bucks on an e-book in order to read more of your material right NOW (readers resemble 5-year-olds in a lot of ways).

In this way, as Amanda pointed out, the advantage of having both traditionally published works and self-published works is cyclical—a traditionally published book can usually find a bigger initial audience than a self-published book, and then self-published titles can help retain those readers and attract new ones, which in turn gives you better numbers to barter with in your next traditional publishing contract, which in turn can lead to better offers and more marketing, which means even more new readers Googling you and finding your self-pubbed books next time— you get the picture.

A successful hybrid author, in Amanda’s words, “produces quality work quickly.”

Though there were undoubtedly some small edits needed when Dickens’ novels were re-published in book form, he essentially wrote a chapter a week of what would come to be widely accepted as great literature for the bulk of his writing career. No matter what magazine he was writing for, whether his last book had sold well or not, Dickens produced thousands of pages of content and then published them wherever he currently had good connections/opportunity. Modern hybrid authors have to escape the mindset of writing simply to get a contract, and instead focus on writing content their readers will enjoy, so that, whether a book is ultimately published in pieces on a blog, as a self-pubbed e-book, or by a traditional publisher, it will continue to strengthen an author’s brand and attract readers, setting up future publishing exploits of all kinds to be that much more successful.

A successful hybrid author knows his rights and fights for them (and doesn’t overstep them).

As Amanda puts it, self-publishing can be a “wild west in which the rules are meant to be broken and anything goes so long as no one ends up getting sued.” Dickens was involved in several legal battles during his career, most of which were of his own initiation and in defense of his own rights. He knew exactly how much control he had over each publication he wrote for or edited, and adjusted his expectations accordingly, but neither was he afraid to cut his losses and start over when he wasn’t happy with a publishing arrangement. (Clearly. The man could have made a living teaching workshops on “how to start and in some cases immediately abandon your own magazine.”) When a disreputable magazine plagiarized nearly all of A Christmas Carol only a month after its publication, Dickens sued the magazine into bankruptcy at great personal expense.

Modern hybrid authors need to be their own greatest advocate for their rights, both so they can protect their intellectual property, and so they don’t find themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit. This requires a certain amount of forethought in terms of anticipating what kinds of projects you might want to self-publish in the future and making allowances for this in contracts with traditional publishers. If you plan to use certain characters or settings in novellas, or self-publish “in-betweenquels” in a series, or want to write some short-stories featuring certain characters or settings for your blog, you’ll need to make allowances for these scenarios in your contract. As Amanda said, this is where having an agent as a hybrid author can be invaluable; your agent can help you plan a self-publishing schedule and system that supports, rather than detracts from, your traditionally published work, and will make sure you retain the legal rights necessary.

There are probably several more lessons to be gleaned from Charles Dickens’ writing career, and several more “hybrid authors of the past” it would be interesting to look at, but if I write any more, you’ll die of old age reading this and then Amanda won’t have any readers when she comes back next week. If you have any insight to share on the topic of hybrid authors, Charles Dickens, or vampire/lycan crossbreeds, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Thursdays with Amanda: How the Movie “UNDERWORLD” Perfectly Portrays Today’s Publishing World

March 27th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Publishing, Self-Publishing, The Business of Writing, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

2014Amanda

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.

 

Have you seen Underworld?

In this rather awesome and yet equally terrible movie, the vampires and the lycans are at odds (duh). The vampires are snooty and privileged and literally SLEEPING UNDERGROUND while the world passes them by.  The lycans, on the other hand, are rule-breakers and thugs. They do what they want and for obvious reasons don’t get along with the vamps.

There is a particularly attractive lycan-hunting vampire girl who is tracking a lowly human that most women my age would know as Ben from Felicity. Ben from Felicity is being followed by lycans, and the hot vamp chick wants to know why. The truth is soon revealed when the lycans bite Ben from Felicity and turn him. By now the hot vampire lady is torn! She has grown to care for Ben from Felicity, and how can she love her enemy?! She eventually decides to get over herself and love him anyway, but then he is once again injured and near death (wimp). She does what she has been warned not to do and bites him, thus making him both vampire and lycan–a creation that is rumored to be stronger than either species. They call him a hybrid. Eventually, he is able to bring about peace between the clans.

So why do I bring this up? Why walk you through the ENTIRE movie premise?

Because it adequately portrays what’s happening in publishing, and every time I hear the term “hybrid author,” I immediately think of Ben from Felicity (and I wanted you to do so as well).

You see, traditional and digital/self-pubbing are at odds. Traditional publishing for the longest time was comprised of two camps. There were the industry people who saw what was happening and wanted to figure out a solution, and then there were the stuffy, somewhat elitist industry people who were looking the other way (i.e. vampire sleeping) while digital/self-publishing took off. Also true to the movie, the self-publishing side is more of a wild west in which the rules are meant to be broken and anything goes so long as no one ends up getting sued.

And authors in the midst of their careers are caught in the shuffle. They’re torn, much like the hot vampire chick was torn when Ben from Felicity was bitten! Do they stay true to their publisher? Or do they venture out on their own? Conversely, self-pub authors, when given the opportunity to go traditional, have an equally tough decision to make. Are they signing their careers away by getting with the big houses?

One by one we see traditionally published authors dabble in self-pubbing.  And we also see self-pubbing success stories trying their hand at traditional options.

The result? The industry is filling with hybrid authors who are more powerful, more connected, more happy, and typically more profitable than those who stay one one side or the other.

The hybrid authors get the best of both worlds, as they get marketing and brand support (not to mention in-store distribution) from traditional houses, while they maintain creative control and better royalty breaks from their self-publishing ventures.

How are publishers responding?

For awhile, publishers tried to fight it. We heard stories of publishers dropping authors who had ventured out on their own, and for the longest time it was very difficult to get an indie book entered into any kind of contest. Publishers also held tightly to non-compete clauses, and would say things like “why didn’t you show this project to me?” when an author would take something and either do it on their own or place it with a micro-publisher.

But things are changing. Industry pros are finding that authors are happier when they’re making money (big surprise there), and the beauty of self-publishing is that it brings it more cash. It makes becoming a full time author a bit more feasible. And it also helps the author provide content to readers more regularly, thus developing a stronger brand and a more dedicated following, which traditional houses can appreciate.

How Do You Become a Hybrid Author?

For unpublished authors, it’s a matter of producing quality work…quickly. It’s about growing your sales numbers and catching the eye of an agent or publisher. From there, things tend to work pretty smoothly. You can negotiate a deal that preserves your right to self-publish here and there (you may need to slow the frequency with which you publish down a bit), and doing so won’t surprise a publisher.

For published authors, it’s a trickier dance…and having an agent would come in handy. You need to begin negotiating those clauses that would potentially hinder your self-pubbing career. You also need to develop a strategy for publication that would prevent the two from conflicting (timing, genre, marketing…all of these have the potential of creating major rifts in your publishing relationships).

There’s a lot more to it than this, but the idea here is that hybrid publishing can boost any career…it’s a marketing tool as much as it’s a career move. And I’m excited to dive into the topic with you.

Have questions or thoughts about the hybrid thing? Sound off below!

What’s the seventh step in marketing your book?

March 5th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, The Business of Writing, Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Okay, you’ve come to the point in the process where you really get into the details… you’ve done a bunch of research. You know who you are, and what it is you want to say. You’ve figured out who your audience is, and done some research on how to reach them. You’ve made choices about the general strategies you’ll use to get your words in front of potential readers, and you’ve decided what your specific plans are — where you’ll go and what you’ll say. Now you’ve got to write it all down. 

You probably think this is too simple, that you’re waiting for some secret to making marketing work. Well, this is it. Write it down. Put down on paper all the things you want to do. All those tools you were choosing yesterday? Write them down. All those places you want to reach? Write them down. All the audiences you want to stand in front of? Write it down. Get down on paper everything you want to do. Force yourself to get everything in one place, since it will make it much more real (and therefore more likely that you’ll actually DO it).

So if you’re going to do a blog tour, and visit 30 blogs in 30 days, here is where you write down the goal, then note the actual blogs you intend to target, and make notes on how you’re going to reach out to them and what you’re going to talk about. If you’re going to be focusing on talk radio, here’s where you right down the places you want to hit — the cities, the regions, even the shows and stations if you know what they are. Write down notes about what questions you expect to be asked, and how you plan to answer them. Prepare stories — both long and short stories, that will get your point across and entertain listeners. If you’re going to be sending out copies of your book, write down who you plan to send them to. If you’re going to create articles, this is where you write down what those articles will be (if nonfiction, make it a small chunk of the book, reshaped for the particular readers of that magazine; if you’re a novelist, maybe something on the events or time or place or characters, or perhaps something broader on the creating of the book itself — your motivation and process). But gather together all the disparate elements and put them into one big document, so you’ve got a handle on what you’ll be doing.

Don’t leave anything out. In fact, you’re better off writing too much, and having to delete some aspects of your plan later, rather than not planning enough. Again, perhaps only one-third of the things you try will really be effective — but you don’t know which one-third is going to work, so write the entire plan out. Be specific. Make note of your goals. Keep track of your audience. Have each step laid out clearly. Many people add a date & person responsible box to each activity, so it’s clear WHAT is to be done, WHEN it is to be done, and WHO is to do it. The entire document should be so clear that you could hand the document to someone else, and they could go out and execute your plan on your behalf.

Write it all down. That will allow you to tweak it, once you see the various pieces working together to help market your book. You might see holes that need to be filled, or realize you’re over-working one part of the marketing plan and under-working another. Just get the whole thing written down clearly. At that point you’ve gone from having some vague notion about “maybe helping market my book” to actually having a written plan that you can put into practice. Imagine the difference that will make — and how different you’ll feel, knowing you’ve got a plan and are way ahead of most authors.

Don’t wait. Write it down. Now.

 

A Monday with Amanda: How to Break into Christian Speculative Fiction

March 3rd, 2014 | Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Amanda Luedeke, here. I don’t write too often on topics and issues that pertain to a particular genre or writer group. When you handle both Christian and general market books, you try to stay away from specifics. It’s what keeps everyone happy and coming back for more. But, since it’s Monday and since I have the microphone, I’d like to talk a bit about Christian speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror). I did this some weeks ago when the big sale of Marcher Lord Press hit the blogosphere, and I’d like to follow that up with something chock-full of the practicality that I’m known and loved/hated for.

Writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction is hard.

I could probably end the post there. But knowing this writer demographic quite well, I understand that it is full of fanboys and fangirls who suffer from addictive personalities and an ability to brush off that which is “hard” and escape into their worlds of fantasy.  For some, this his how they got through high school (specifically gym class, am I right?), so “hard” means nothing. “Hard” is simply part of life.

So let me paint “hard” into a picture for you…and then let me offer some hope.

PUBLISHING FACTS

There are only a handful of publishers who will truly consider a speculative fiction manuscript. Sure, I could get a spec fic project in front of maybe ten houses, but there are roughly four that would take it seriously. And of those four, only two are actively acquiring in the genre. (Meaning the other two only acquire when they think they have room…and 99% of the time they only have room for fantasy).

Of those two active houses, one acquires primarily teen- or children-aged fiction.

The other does primarily adult fiction.

So that leaves most authors with one house to go to. One, measly house.

There are a few others that I’m sure I’m missing. Small, indie houses that for one reason or another haven’t quite made it onto my radar due to maybe a quality factor or a newness factor. So if you want to go super indie, then you maybe have a few more options. But that doesn’t leave you with much.

And yet …

Speculative fiction does get published. I think of Patrick Carr, CS Lakin, Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, Robert Liparulo, James Rubart, CE Laureano, Jill Williamson, Mike Dellosso, Mike Duran, Erin Healy, Stephen Lawhead. These are only a few names of current authors with books in the Christian spec fiction adult market. The kids market has a whole other list of names.

So how do they do it?

BEHIND THE DEAL

Like I said above, there are houses who dabble in spec fiction. They won’t come out and say it, because contrary to popular opinion, publishing professionals don’t enjoy turning people down and dashing dreams. So, to protect authors and to protect themselves, editors on the hunt for spec fiction don’t generally broadcast the message. They will tell select agents and they may mention it to a few authors they meet at conferences. But that’s it. They try to keep the floodgates sealed as tightly as they were before.

It follows, then, that there are some simple rules to getting in on this secret path to publishing success. Take heed, my friends…this is the good stuff:

1. WRITE SOMETHING ORIGINAL. Before you can get a contract you need a great manuscript. Agents and spec editors can go on and on about how tired we are of seeing the same old stories in Christian speculative fiction. Here’s what I’m so very tired of seeing:

  • Characters on the hunt for an ancient text
  • A samey-same “chosen one” story in which one character is to be a sort of savior to their world; and also stories in which characters are fulfilling prophecies. These stories can work, but they can easily start to sound the same.
  • Allegories about spiritual journeys
  • Worlds that mirror what you see from Tolkein – or worlds that are unimaginative and unoriginal
  • “The next” Lewis or Tolkein or Peretti project
  • Openings in which villages (or families or people groups) are destroyed and one child or person remains
  • Dragons

2. NETWORK LIKE CRAZY. Relative to the rest of publishing, which operates much like a small town, Christian spec fiction operates like a family within that town. Everyone knows everyone else, and so long as you don’t come across as a big shot or know-it-all, it’s a welcoming group. The general mentality is that “we’re all in this together” and so many authors and writers in the genre are helpful and warm. It’s easy (and smart), then, to tap into this. Get involved in online blogs and boards. Start meeting others and see about joining crit groups. It’s only going to help in the end when you need a recommendation, an endorsement, or some tips.

3. ATTEND CONFERENCES. Once you’ve polished your very original and exciting manuscript, and once you’ve cultivated a support system, then it’s time to see what the professionals have to say. Emailed or mailed queries will get you nowhere…remember, there are only a handful of slots! Publishing professionals are much more likely to get excited about authors that we’ve met face to face. In fact, it’s how most of us fill our lists. So getting some facetime with Christian spec fiction professionals is the final piece to this particular puzzle.

ACFW is a good option, although I know that I’m rarely in a spec fiction mood when I attend it. I’m usually thinking more about romance or YA, and I know most of the publishers who only dabble in spec fiction aren’t even letting the genre cross their minds while at conference.

This is why Realm Makers is really a great opportunity. Realm Makers is a relatively new Christian Speculative Fiction conference. It’s drawing some really strong and well-known faculty, and it’s a great way to get your foot in the door with others in the genre.

Right now, they have a cool giveaway going on. Check it out!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

That’s it for now…the non-scientific and yet so essential list of rules to breaking in to Christian speculative fiction. What are your thoughts on the genre? I’d love to hear them!

Thursdays with Amanda: Free Video Critique

February 27th, 2014 | Marketing and Platforms, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

2014Amanda

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.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Here’s where your author, promo, or book video gets put to the test.

We’ve been talking a lot about book trailers and videos lately. We started on this journey by looking at the different types of viral videos. Then, I compared two book trailers, showing how a great, viral-type trailer can increase awareness. Then we looked at the components of a viral video, and lastly, I shared some ideas that would make creating a viral video easier.

Yet, all of this is just speculation. It’s just information.

So let’s look at YOUR videos. I promise to be nice. But I also promise to be honest.

Post the YouTube link to your book trailer/author video/video promo below, and I’ll share my thoughts. What I think was done right, what I think needs work, and maybe even some ideas of how you could recraft it to hit that viral potential that is so droolworthy.

Any takers? Anyone? This is your chance to get my opinion on something for absolutely free!

___________

LIKE MY MARKETING ADVICE? My book, The Extroverted Writer is now available in print!

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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…

COLLEGE STUDENTS

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…

THE IN-CLASS ASSIGNMENT

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.

THE CAMPUS COMPETITION

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.

VINE VIDEOS

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).

MY TAKE

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

 

New agent joining MacGregor Literary

February 17th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 22 Comments

MacGregor Literary Inc has hired Holly Lorincz as their newest literary agent. Lorincz has been working as Assistant to the President, Chip MacGregor, over the past year, and is now moving into her new role where she will be working directly with novelists. While new to agenting, Lorincz is not new to the publishing world — she has owned a successful editing business, Lorincz Literary Services, created and managed a website for western authors (www.dustytrailbooks.com), and has written and published her own novel, Smart Mouth. 

Lorincz holds a Masters Degree in writing and literature, as well as a degree in journalism. She was the editor of the literary magazine Perceptions, then became a high school and college English instructor. During that fifteen year run she was named Teacher of the Year in Oregon, won two national awards from the National Federation of Schools, and coached her high school speech team to two state championships. She left teaching due to an extended illness, but used that time to build up her editing business and write, eventually meeting Chip MacGregor at an author reading.

Residing on the Oregon coast with her young son, Lorincz works out of the MacGregor Literary office one block from the Pacific Ocean, and is well aware of the shifting role of a literary agent. While seeking traditional publishers for her authors, she also closely works with clients on alternative publishing options, career development, marketing plans, and media training. She is currently open to submissions from general market authors focused on contemporary or historical romance, political or conspiracy thrillers, women’s fiction, literary fiction, and both literary and classic westerns.

The Ten Laws of Writing Critique Groups

February 11th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

BY CHIP MACGREGOR

A reader wrote to say, “I’m going to a big writing conference that encourages us to join a critique group. You’ve talked before about the benefit of being in a critique group, but I was in a critique group that didn’t work. What I’m wondering is how to make a critique group actually WORK. Can you help?”

I’m a huge fan of critique groups, and have participated in several until I moved or they wised up and threw me out. The experience has taught me a few principles for getting the most out of the group. Here are my Ten Laws of Critique Groups:

  •  1.  Ask yourself why you want a critique group. What do you hope to get out of it? You ought to have clear expectations going in, so that you’ve got something to evaluate the benefits later. Some people basically want to hang out with other writers — more or less the same reason they attend writers conferences. There’s nothing wrong with that, and if that’s your reason for joining, you should easily find a group that fits your needs. Others really want a dedicated group of professional writers to take a careful and thoughtful look at their material. If that’s what you’re after, you’re going to need to put a lot more thought into your group.
  • 2.  The value of a critique group is based almost entirely on the membership. So look for people who are AT YOUR LEVEL or maybe just a bit better than you (if your ego can take it) and talk to them about the group. Basically, people want to know what the commitment will be (a weekly or maybe twice a month meeting that lasts a couple hours), what the expectations are (that members will actually READ the other member’s writings before coming to the meeting), and what the benefit is to them (you’ll hear advice for improving your writing).
  • 3.  Personally invite people to participate. Don’t put an announcement in the neiborhood bulletin or the local paper. One of the maxims of organization is that people perform at the level at which they are recruited. If you tell them “this is an open time for everybody,” you’re going to get the bad poets, the unteachable storytellers, and the “I’m-in-pain-let-me-share-my-angst-with-you” types.
  • 4.  At one of your first meetings, set some guidelines. These can be simple: You have to come as often as you’re in town. You have to submit your writing to others at least once a month (or every other month). You have to read the work of others before the meeting. You have to offer constructive advice, not just negative criticism. You have to be willing to listen to everyone, even if you disagree with their opinion. (And this is a perfect time to quote Jim Bishop: “A good writer is not, per se, a good book critic. No more than a good drunk is automatically a good bartender.”)
  •  5.  Make sure the group has a leader. Without a ramrod, a critique group turns into a therapy session for the most needy in the bunch.
  •  6.  I think creative, artsy writer types need a regular meeting time and place. It offers discipline to the group. Of course, you all disagree with that, being creative, artsy types. So sue me. You probably also like William Faulkner, even though he is boring and pretentious, but your college writing professor insisted he was deep, and since you want to appear deep too, you tell people at parties that you “loved ‘Soldier Pay’ but thought ‘As I Lay Dying’ lacked focus,” or some such rot. Your group will meet at Starbucks once, at your house once, then you’ll skip a couple months, meet for dinner somewhere, and fade away. So put some regularity and discipline into the meeting schedule.
  • 7.  Above all, listen to criticism. Scottish people have a saying: “Learn to unpack a rebuke.” There’s no point in joining a critique group if you spend all your time defending your writing. So have a rule that you have to listen to people’s ideas, even if you’re going to ignore their insipid, Neanderthal advice. Jarrell once wrote, “It’s always hard for poets to believe that one says their poems are bad not because one is a friend, but because their poems are bad.”
  • 8.  The membership in the group dictates how much you’ll listen. There’s nothing worse than being in a group with one guy you really don’t like, and you don’t respect his lousy writing, but he always wants to talk for a half hour about that terrible state of writing in publishing today. If you find people who are at your level, both in terms of quality and experience, you’ll find yourself much more open to hear what they have to say.
  • 9.  Find a writing partner who you really trust. One person, maybe two, that you’ll listen to. When he or she says to you, “Farnsworth, I know you love medical mysteries, but I question your use of including each character’s dental records in your story,” you’ll know that they aren’t criticizing just to build themselves up. This your your friend. He (or she) LOVES you. He’s only saying it because he wants you to improve your story. That one person will make you better, and you’ll find yourself becoming a much better critiquer of others and member of a group. Really.
  • 10.  Insist people write. I was once in a critique group where people argued about the merits of “Left Behind” and debated which trends were hot in bookstores, but we never really got around to writing anything or examining each other’s work. Write something each time, insist others do the same, and submit that work ahead of the meeting so that everyone can read it and tell you how awful it is. (Or how wonderful it is, depending on how you’re feeling today.)

In closing, a note from Lillian Hellman: “They’re fancy talkers about themselves, writers. If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talk about writing. Or themselves.”

What Drives an Editor Crazy

February 10th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 86 Comments

Someone wrote to ask a favorite question: “Are there certain editing errors that drive you crazy?”

Yes! Of course! Here’s one! Novelists who use exclamation points as though the period key didn’t work on their keyboard! I hate this! Really! What’s worse is the writer who needs to use several at once!!!!

Here’s “another” one: Occasionally you’ll find “authors” who feel a “need” to put any emphasized words in “quotes,” since they think it makes them look “official.” This is particularly tiresome when a “funny” author decides to put his “punchline” in quotations. An “idea:” cut the quotation marks.

And a third (related) item: People who use an open parenthesis but no close parenthesis. (For example, this kind.

Number four: The serial comma. The rule for using commas is that there should be ONE LESS COMMA THAN THE ITEMS IN YOUR LIST. So if you list five things, you’d use four commas. Let me offer an example… “Farnsworth visited Italy, Spain, Bermuda, and Angora.” Note that there are four countries and three commas — one less than the list. Writers will often drop the serial comma, in an apparent attempt to make “Bermuda and Angora” one country (sort of like Trinidad and Tobago, if you need a geography joke).

5. Notice the unclear way I’ve used to create this list. I didn’t number the first or second. Then I used “third” and “fourth,” followed by the number 5. An editing error that drives me up a tree is jumbled numbers in a list. For some reason, Number-Impaired People will make an outline that reads, “First,” followed by “Two,” then “C,” and then “4.” (Or, occasionally, “13.”) Make all your numbered lists consistent. And try not to put a numbered list within another numbered list. Too many numbers drives editors insane.

Sixth: Please notice I didn’t write “sixthly.” From a strict editorial viewpoint, there is no reason the word “firstly” or “secondly” exists. To number a list as “first” or “second” is to adverbialize them. To add “ly” is to adverbialize them. Therefore, why in the world would you adverbialize an adverb? Why write “firstly” when all you really need to write is “first”? Besides, if it’s a long list, can you really defend “thirteenthly”?

Seventh: Figure out the difference between “your” and “you’re” before writing you’re book. Ditto for “its” and “it’s.” And “there” and “their.” [Warning to the humor-impaired: there is a deliberate error in that first sentence. Ask your mom to explain it to you.]

Eighth: Your spell-checker is not to be relied upon. Ewe can knot really on it too pickup ever thin.

Ninth: Print out a copy of your proposal or manuscript and look it over. If the FIRST WORD of every paragraph is the same, you need to go back and change it. (Unless the first word of every paragraph is the word “I,” in which case you need to be slapped by the person sitting next to you, THEN go back and change it.) The same holds true for authors who use five different types of font on the cover page. I sometimes get queasy looking over the waves of font attacking me.

Tenth: Maxwell Perkins once said that “style” is nothing more than one author’s decision to misuse the rules of grammar. A good editor will let you misuse it in order to help you create voice (any reading of William Faulkner is evidence of that). But that same editor will notice when you’ve crossed over to misusing it and sounding like a moron. Listen to your editor.

May I suggest two wonderful grammarphiles you can read in order to get a good grasp of the rules of grammar? Take a peek at Karen Gordon’s Transitive Vampire and Well Tempered Sentence, as well as Patricia O’Connor’s Woe Is I. Both authors actually have a sense of humor in talking about “the rules.”