Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary has a comprehensive knowledge of the industry—from book development to writing, acquisition to production, marketing to sales. He has secured more than 1,000 book deals for authors with all of the major publishers in both CBA and ABA.
A popular writer’s conference speaker, Chip has presented workshops at more than 100 locations, spoken at colleges and universities, and is frequently invited to speak to writers groups around the country on the topics of writing and publishing. Chip earned his BS with High Honors at Portland State University, earned an MA with Honors from Talbot Theological Seminary at Biola University, and did his doctoral work at the University of Oregon in Policy and Management, focusing on organizational development. He has been written up in numerous writing and publishing related magazines and newsletters.
Chip’s greatest desire is to help authors create great books that make a difference in the world.
Teri Dawn Smith caught up with Chip via e-mail recently and asked him some questions.
Teri: Chip, some writers toss around the phrase “kiss of death” in connection with queries or proposals. Is there such a thing and what would it be for you?
Chip: There are probably a bunch of things that would be considered the kiss of death (opening with “it was a dark and stormy night,” or sending your proposal in crayon, for example), but in Christian writing I suppose the one thing that is sure to get you rejected is starting your query with the words, “God TOLD me to write this.”
Teri: Wow. Hard to believe anyone would really say that, but let’s get the word out right now! What advice do you give an author if their novel is something between the CBA and the ABA?
Chip: My advice would be to decide. Make it fish or fowl. A novel that is “too Christian to be ABA, but too edgy to be CBA” is sure to wind up in the reject pile.
Teri: Thanks, I’m sure that will help some who are deciding which direction to take their novel. We’ve heard you say that you’re looking for a “fresh voice”. What do you mean?
Chip: I love nothing more than to pick up a manuscript and read something that sounds fresh — it doesn’t sound like everyone else. The voice, the personality in the writing, is strong. It’s not the same old story I’ve seen a million times. That’s what a fresh voice is.
Teri: Fresh, unique, distinctive. Okay, we’re on to this. What do you wish more unpublished authors knew?
Chip: The email of Steve Laube.
Teri: LOL! I wonder what Steve will say about that. I realize you have specific genres you are seeking within the parameters of inspirational/Christian fiction. However, could you tell us in a general sense what you look for in a book/author you are happy to represent? To be specific, what is it that attracts you to an author’s writing style, subject matter, characters, story?
Chip: I’m always looking for great voice — that’s probably the number one thing that attracts me to an author’s work. They get me to care about the characters. The story grabs me right away. The manuscript doesn’t feel like it’s take number 256 on the same old thing. It also needs to be something that I think I can reasonably sell. Fresh ideas, strong characters, an entertaining plot. And, if it’s really going to be great, I want to see the manuscript get me to wrestle with the big questions of life.
Teri: We all want to read something like that so your answer resonates. One of our friends wondered if a writer gets a reader at a publishing house that just doesn’t like your kind of story, do they pass it on to another reader who enjoys that kind of story? Or does it go into the reject pile from one viewing? (Assuming you know your craft and the story is well built.)
Chip: Sometimes, but usually not. That’s why a good agent will make sure your book gets in front of an editor who likes the type of story you write.
Teri: Another friend asked this: When a writer is to the point where she’s getting good rejections and statements like “not quite ready”, what are some of the problems that come up? What can she do to get over that hump?
Chip: “Close but no cigar” is a frustrating place to be. I have a client who is like that. I keep telling her to stay with it — she’s good, but there’s always something in her work that keeps her from getting over the hump. My advice? Have an experienced editor take a look at your work and tell you honestly what’s wrong with the manuscript. That can often move you forward faster than a bunch of friendly writers who love you.
Teri: Great advice, and may I suggest Susan May Warren’s My Book Therapy? She loves to help writers and her passion comes through in a big way in her therapy sessions. Last question. Are there any topics or specific careers for their characters authors should avoid either due to saturation or taboos?
Chip: Careers? Probably, but it’s shifting all the time. Nobody in CBA is interested in prostitutes or anything immoral. If three bestselling authors all come out with books about rodeo professionals, it’s probably time to shift to something else. As for topics, there always seem to be eras that are in and eras that are out. For example, right now the market seems to have an interest in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s, but there seems to be little interest in Colonial times. Why? Beats me — it’s just today’s reality. A while back we had a huge interest in Scottish stories, now much of that enthusiasm seems to be gone. I don’t know why — but chasing the market can also be a tough thing to do. Sometimes by the time you have your proposal ready, the rush has passed you. There’s a balance, I suppose.
Teri: Thanks so much for joining us. Don’t forget that everyone can get up-to-date information on all things relating to the publishing industry on Chip’s blog.
Teri Dawn Smith lives in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and tries to keep up with the holidays, quirks, and loyalties of her international family including her Canadian husband and three adopted Bolivian children. She’s spoken at an area-wide Women’s In Touch conference as a “break-out” speaker, a high-school commencement speaker, and several writing seminars for home school moms. As a member of ACFW and the Christian Writers Guild, she loves to connect with other authors and continue to learn more about the craft of fiction. She’s had over fifty articles published in Sunday school handouts and several in The Teaching Home Magazine. Teri took her first ride on a Harley to research her latest novel and wonders what she should research for her next novel…maybe skydiving or bungee jumping. Visit Teri’s website to learn more about her.