By Janet Fogg
Today, Chiseled in Rock has the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Luedeke, a Literary Agent with MacGregor Literary. Amanda is a graduate of the acclaimed Taylor University’s Professional Writing program, and before joining MacGregor made her living as a full-time writer, freelancing for newspapers and marketing agencies. She met Chip MacGregor at an author signing, and before she knew it, she was helping him with all the little stuff she now assumes he just didn’t feel like doing. Shortly after, Amanda was hired as Chip’s Assistant.
Two years ago Amanda transitioned into the role of agent, and she brings unique interests to the MacGregor team. She represents mainstream and CBA projects, and her areas of interest include nonfiction, literary fiction, women’s fiction, paranormal romance, urban fantasy (and other speculative genres geared toward women), African American romance, speculative fiction (including steampunk, fantasy, horror, etc), YA, and twenty-something/post college-aged hip lit (think Joe Meno, Brad Land, JD Salinger).
CIR: Amanda, thank you so much for joining us here on the Rock! First of all, any recent changes in the types of books you represent or other announcements you’d care to share?
AL: Yes! Lately, I’ve been diving into Science Fiction/Fantasy and loving it. So take a walk down that aisle in your local Barnes & Noble, and that’s the type of stuff I’d really like to see. Horror, fantasy and especially a really great science fiction romance series geared toward women. I’m moving away from doing any children’s literature aside from YA, and I’ve also decided to list African American romance as one of my categories. I wasn’t expecting to find success there, but it’s been working out, so I’m just going with it!
As for nonfiction, I’m very flexible. I’ve represented a resume book, a military gift book and a Christian zombie nonfiction project called UNDEAD by Clay Morgan. So the sky is the limit there.
CIR: Would you briefly describe the preferred method to query your agency?
AL: On our website, it says that we’re closed to queries, but that’s not necessarily true for me. I prefer for people to email me a query. If they want to paste a writing sample in the email, that’s fine. But the best way to query me is to meet me face to face. I have a Facebook agent page that lists out all of the conferences I’ll be attending this year. If you’d like to meet me, check it out.
CIR: If possible, please share your favorite opening line from a query.
AL: I see so many, that they really do blend together, but I know that I’m most likely to read the entire query if the author begins it by letting me know why they chose me...prove I’m more than a name on their hit list. Making it personal can go a long way.
CIR: Do you have any pet peeves, when it comes to submissions?
AL: Where to begin?! Authors who insist they’re the next JK Rowling. Authors who haven’t completed their fiction projects but are querying anyway. Authors who don’t know what I represent. Authors who throw a bunch of questions at me instead of doing their research first. Authors who insist I call them if I want to learn more. Authors who are protective about their work and afraid I’m going to steal it. Authors who don’t want to tell me the ending to their book...they want me to read it. Authors who send their manuscripts as PDF attachments instead of Word docs. The list goes on...
CIR: Pet peeves when working with a client?
AL: Trust is a huge thing when working together. When I feel that an author doesn’t trust me to do my job and work hard for them, it’s an indication that we might not be as good of a fit as I thought.
CIR: How about pet peeves when being interviewed?
AL: I love being interviewed. I think because I look so young (anyone want to take a guess at how old I am?), I appreciate any opportunity I can get to prove that I know the business. In other words, I’m not here because someone owed my dad a favor. I’m here because I worked hard and have the agent eye.
CIR: What do you love the most about being an agent? What frustrates you?
AL: I love working with people. Love travel. Love books. And I LOVE the thrill of the sale. The most frustrating part, and I think I speak for most agents when I say this, is the time spent between deals. It’s funny, but book deals seem to come in waves. The time in between those waves can be frustrating.
CIR: What types of books would you like to see more of as an agent?
AL: Science fiction of all sorts...I think there’s a desire to take this fantasy/paranormal wave and turn it into a science fiction wave. At least that’s what I’m hearing from editors, and it makes sense. You can only do so much with vampires and fairies and magic before you run out of fresh ideas. But the desire for an otherworldly adventure is still there. Science fiction needs to rise to the occasion.
CIR: What’s the one thing an author can do to catch your eye?
AL: Be polished. From your manuscript to your query to your professionalism. Writers are weird, and I’m ok with that. We’re artists, after all! But first impressions really count.
CIR: Any predictions about what might be the next big thing in publishing?
AL: Aside from Science Fiction, we might see a stronger interest in dark stories. Dark fantasy (thanks to Martin), dark thrillers, horror, dark literary fiction. And from an industry POV, I think we’ll see more digital-first imprints pop up within bigger houses.
CIR: What trend(s) do you see fading?
AL: Urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Though they may keep going for awhile, they won’t be what they were. I also think we’ll see YA move away from fantasy-related themes to more of a gritty contemporary approach.
CIR: What’s one piece of advice would you offer to authors everywhere?
AL: Don’t write for the trends. Focus on those crazy book ideas you have that might not yet fit into what’s hot. You’re more likely to impress an agent or editor and if all else fails, digital publishing is a really great alternative to seeing whether you’re on track with readers.
CIR: With e-pub sales strengthening, are your contract negotiations with publishers changing in regard to, for example, the amount of an advance? Or any other contract terms?
AL: Authors make more on e-book royalties than they do on print royalties, so I haven’t gone into any major advance negotiations based on that alone...what I have done, though, is try to define what “out of print” means for these books that will made available in digital format. Because they could theoretically be in print indefinitely. As an agent, I need to make sure there is a clear point at which the book goes out of print and rights are reverted.
CIR: How do you pursue your relationships with publishers? What happens when a manuscript you’re representing continues to be rejected by your preferred publishers?
AL: Because I’m based in Indiana, I make a point to visit NYC so that I can meet editors. Once I start working with an editor on a project, I’ll try to stay involved throughout the process as opposed to just falling off the radar (which is typical of agents).
When I just can’t sell a manuscript, I tend to take a step back and evaluate the feedback we’re getting. Feedback is an easy way of figuring out whether there’s an issue with the manuscript or it’s just a matter of finding the right editor with the right needs at the right time.
CIR: Now, in accordance with our CIR M.O., I would like to ask an off-track question. If you could travel through time, when would you travel to and why?
AL: I have a fascination with Vikings. I think I’d travel back to the Viking ages to meet my ancestors...maybe make the trip over to Iceland to make an appearance in an Icelandic Saga or two.
CIR: Amanda, thank you again for your time and such thoughtful responses! We look forward to meeting you at the 2012 Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs, April 20th - 22nd.
You can follow Amanda on Twitter @amandaluedeke. She blogs every Thursday on growing your author platform at Chip's Blog (it happens to be #10 on Writer’s Digest’s list of top websites for writers) or you can visit her Facebook group at Amanda Luedeke – Literary Agent. Please visit MacGregor Literary for even more information.