Interview with Chip MacGregor, Tiffany Colter and Jim Rubart

This blog posting is courtesy of Northwest Christian Writers Association member, Janalyn Voigt. She has been a member of NCWA since September of 2008. At our March 1 meeting Janalyn mentioned that she had sold her first novel, in part as a result of her blogging.

At the end of this blog is a special offer on a CD, “30 things you’ll need to know in order to make a living at writing.” The deadline for that special offer has already passed, but Tiffany Colter has graciously extended it for the reposting of this entry. The deadline for readers of this blog has been extended to Thursday, March 11.

Janalyn normally blogs at Thanks to her for allowing us to repost this.

We at Author Haven are pleased to bring to our readers the following important interview with Chip MacGregor, Tiffany Colter and Jim Rubart.


> Author Haven: What is it about The Master Seminars that is different from other events?

Chip MacGregor: Most conferences are big group affairs, where you’re sitting next to a couple hundred other writers, and the content is geared for a mass of people. If you have any contact with the instructor, it’s either for a few rushed minutes after the workshop, or at a crammed table in a noisy cafeteria. At our seminars, we just put together a small group. The content is geared to each person’s unique situation. And you’re together with a publishing professional for two days — nearly nonstop. A writers’ conference is a great time, but we wanted to offer something that is really a different experience. Smaller, more focused, much more personal. And while many writers leave a big conference with some good memories and a notebook jammed with pages, we expect each participant will leave with a new plan mapped out, knowing exactly what they’re going to do differently in the future.

> Author Haven: How did the two of you decide to put something like this together?

Chip MacGregor: Jim Rubart is a longtime marketing consultant. He’s run big campaigns and small plans, helped with radio and TV, and has created all sorts of stuff for online marketing. I’ve spent the last few decades in the publishing business, and have a pretty solid reputation for knowing about books and writing. Jim came to me when he wanted to write his own novel, and that led to the two of us working together. (His first novel, ROOMS, releases with B&H in a few months.) It became clear as we began working together that we both enjoyed talking books and marketing, but we were also both a bit frustrated at the lack of good marketing we saw being created for fiction. So we began talking, and the fiction marketing seminar came out of our discussions.

> Author Haven: Do you have testimonials from attendees?

Tiffany Colter: Yes, I’ve included two from our fall seminars on marketing. Your readers may recognize these authors.

“I attended the marketing seminar in Indy in December, 2009. It truly was the single most important investment I’ve made in my career to date. Through the sessions and the discussions I was able to hone in on specific areas where my marketing strategies fell short…like my website. The instruction time was invaluable–I’ll never forget some of the things I learned, and I believe those tips will have long-term impact on my success. The hours the group spent focusing on each writer individually was an unbelievable luxury. How often does an author get to sit in a room with half a dozen other successful authors, a marketing guru, and the number one literary agent, with the focus completely on her work for an hour or more? I’ve also been so blessed to have maintained strong and continually developing friendships with several of those wonderful authors. And the best part? I signed on as Chip’s client a few weeks after the seminar. Life changing.”

-Nicole O’Dell, author of the Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series,


“The Master’s Seminar on Marketing was exactly what I needed as I prepare for the release of my first trade novels after eight category novels. The teaching was top-notch, but the personalized attention and brainstorming about me and my brand were challenging and exciting. I left with all kinds of ideas bouncing around my mind and the energy to tackle them. I highly recommend this seminar for authors who are ready to take the next step and make an investment in their career.”

Cara Putman, author of Stars in the Night and 8 other novels,

> Author Haven: Okay, let’s talk about branding. Tell us some of the ways a writer can establish a brand.

Chip MacGregor: I think most people completely misunderstand the notion of branding. They confuse it with having a slogan. A “brand” is something that’s reflected in your writing and personality — not something you put on. You live out your brand as much as you create it. In our seminar, In our seminar, I tell people that a brand is a promise made by an author. When you write regularly, you make a promise to readers that you will always provide them with your voice, your themes, your messages. You establish a brand by making those promises clearly, then by regularly supporting those promises every time you communicate with readers.

Tiffany Colter: I think this is a really important issue. I can tell you that as an author myself, I didn’t fully understand what branding was until I spent some time talking to Jim Rubart. I saw it as a slogan. I was trying to make myself like Nike, “Just Do It”. It never seemed to resonate. The way Chip explains it here combined with what Jim told me at our first Master Seminar in Dallas not only changed the way I looked at branding, but I’m also able to integrate that “promise” Chip refers to into all of my stories.

> Author Haven: What expectations for promotion are placed upon a writer who signs a book deal and how much will the publisher take on?

Chip MacGregor: Every publisher expects an author is going to participate in the marketing… what writers sometimes don’t understand is that the author is IN CHARGE of the marketing. Who knows the book better — the author or the publisher? Who has the most enthusiasm for the book better — the author or the publisher? Who has the most at stake — the author or the publisher? When you think through it carefully, you quickly discover that it’s the AUTHOR who needs to feel the responsibility for marketing. In fact, the publisher is expecting the author will market the book hard and help them sell copies.

The problem with that is that most authors aren’t trained as marketers. And they just want to be WRITERS, not publicists. I sympathize with that notion, but the reality is that releasing a book and selling it for profit makes this a BUSINESS — and you can’t simply leave all your business details to someone else, in hopes they will do a good job for you. So you assume the publisher will do SOME things, but not EVERY thing. What I try to help writers see is that they need to first clarify what the publisher is going to do, then figure out what else needs to be done, then either DO those other things or make sure someone else is doing them. Again, that may not be fair, but… this is art. When has it ever been easy to make a living at art?

> Author Haven: What’s the best use of an author’s resources in promoting a book?

Chip MacGregor: In my view, the effective use of the internet is the best thing most authors can invest in. Most of it is free to access, you don’t have to leave home to do it, and it relies on words — the very thing a writer is skilled at. Now, the core of marketing has always been simple — figure out where your customers are (for a writer, that’s your readers), then go stand in front of them. So the BEST thing an author can do, in my opinion, is to spend time researching where their readers are, determining some methods for getting in touch with those potential readers, and then following through with the hard work of marketing to those readers.

> Author Haven: Do you recommend paying for a blog tour? Some of them can cost upwards of $500.00.

Chip MacGregor: Actually, I’ve seen marketing consultants charge up to $5000 for them, and it’s not unusual at all to see them charge $1500. Should an author pay that? It depends… I would tell you that just about any good writer with some time on his hands, a computer, and the willingness to work hard, can set up a blog tour. So no, most authors should not pay someone to do it. But if you don’t have the time, or need to spend it on other marketing ventures, then perhaps hiring a freelancer to do it might make sense.

> Author Haven: Should a fiction writer pay for radio, print or online ads?

Chip MacGregor: Let’s be clear about something… “Advertising” is marketing that’s paid for. “Publicity” is marketing that’s free. Anytime you are paying for something, you want to make sure you’re really doing it the right way, and getting a fair deal. So that means you might want to work with a professional to help produce print or audio ads, as well as to get help placing them. Be wary of people over-promising you things — the fact is, there’s very little that can be guaranteed in this business. Even full-page ads in a major newspaper (something beyond the means of most authors) can’t guarantee to pull in readers and sell copies of your book.

Now, having said all that, I think we’re going to see many more online ads this year. People have figured out that online ads are cheap, so they’re buying them. But understand that buying ads in the wrong location won’t help you one bit. And putting a BAD ad in front of thousands of people will only have the reverse effect — it will turn people away from your book. So if you’re going to do this, at least start with some professionals who can assist you. Radio ads have been one of the most underused marketing venues for books, and that can be a very effective method — but you’ve got to be careful, or you can spend an inordinate amount of money on something with a small return.

> Author Haven: How much should a first-time author do to market a book while still writing it?

Chip MacGregor: You’ve got to have a good product first, before you can market it. You’ve got to have a good book first, before you can publicize it. So write the best book you can FIRST. Worry about the marketing later. Having said that, once the book is contracted and turned in, you need to educate yourself on the basics of marketing. Two common mistakes I see are writers who seem to be trying to sell me something even though they don’t even have a book written yet, and authors who seem to think they’re artists and therefore above marketing, so they don’t make the effort to learn how they can support their books.

> Author Haven: What does the move toward e-books and POD mean in terms of opportunity for writers?

Chip MacGregor: The advent of ebooks means there are suddenly going to be a million more opportunities for writers — but it also means there is the possibility of seeing a million bad books. We’re going to see an explosion of companies creating ebooks, and everything about the industry will probably change. So I think it’s going to be easier than ever for someone to print their book, leave it conspicuously on their kitchen counter, and say to guests, “Have you seen my book?” Unfortunately, that means we’re bound to see a lot of really bad books… and it will make it even harder for a GOOD book to get noticed.

Tiffany Colter: We had some questions that were specific to marketing so I asked one of the Master Seminar Speakers, Jim Rubart, to chime in. Jim is the owner of Barefoot Marketing and has over 2 decades of marketing experience. He teaches our ‘Marketing Your Fiction’ seminar. The next will be March 19-20 in Nashville, TN.

>Author Haven: How important is marketing using the internet versus other more traditional ways?

Jim Rubart: These days the internet is critical. When you meet someone in person and they interest you, what’s the first thing you do when you get home? Look up their Website and/or blog. Websites have become business cards on steroids. And that Website had better intrigue the person enough for them to go to other parts of your internet presence; blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

>Author Haven: And what medium within the internet seems to have the most luck:  blogs, Websites, Face book, Twitter, and other such sites?

Jim Rubart: For me the jury is out on Facebook because most people are using it wrong with regard to marketing. To be blunt, most people are boring and their posts will only interest their close friends, not new friends. Same thing with Twitter. But if used well, Facebook and Twitter can drive people to a blog where a more in-depth relationship can develop.

>Author Haven: How can writers drive more traffic to their blogs?

Jim Rubart: Be fascinating. I’m serious. As my agent (Chip) says, “Great writing will be discovered.” So if you write consistently intriguing posts, people will tell people will tell people. But how do you speed up the process? Simple. Post fascinating comments on other people’s blogs. DON’T make your comments a commercial for your blog. If your comments are interesting, people will click on your name to find out who this person with the wisdom is. And if they like what you have to say, bingo, you’ve got another reader. All marketing is word of mouth in one form or another. Make sure you’re giving out content people will want to spread.

From Tiffany:

We are very happy that Author Haven has allowed us to make some big announcements. First, some background. Since we announced the launch of the Master Seminars last fall many people asked about CD teachings, Video Streaming, and other ways to get the content of the Master Seminars at home. Our goal is to help develop writers who will have the strength of craft to get noticed by editors and the strength of marketing to get noticed by readers. Every seminar we put together has that goal in mine. People who attend our seminars have many positive things to say, but we want to reach out to writers who can attend as well as those who cannot. So we will be releasing a few products, and the first one is free:

“30 things you’ll need to know in order to make a living at writing” is a CD teaching that will be available FREE OF CHARGE to every person who registers for a 2010 seminar by February 28. This CD teaching offers Chip MacGregor’s wisdom on this crucial topic. Chip has been a full-time writer, editor, professor, publisher with Time-Warner and a top literary agent. He will share tips drawing not only on 30 years of experience, but also his inside information on how to continue to make a living as a writer in this changing market. For everyone who has already registered for a seminar, your CD will be sent to you as soon as it is completed. For those of you considering a Master Seminar, now is the time to register. We have six seminars in six cities covering three topics between now and July, so there are many opportunities to attend a workshop. We do not have immediate plans to sell this CD. It is a gift to our attendees

The next big announcement is that we now have discounts for Alumni or people who want to attend multiple seminars. The first seminar is regular price and additional 2010 seminars are only $299. If you’d like to RETAKE the same seminar you will save even more. If you retake the same seminar in another city you’ll pay only $149! Go to and click on the city of your choice. You will be directed to a registration page where you can take advantage of these rates.

Finally, we will soon be releasing audio lessons as well. These will not be the more than 16 hours of personalized instruction you receive at a Master Seminar, but they will be lessons full of practical knowledge that will help you advance your writing career.

We have some new topics (like writing great proposals) and visits to cities in the planning stages. Make sure you are on our contact list to find out more. And if you have a suggestion for a topic you’d like to see us cover, or if your group would like to know about having one of our masters speak at your group or writer’s conference you can contact me, Tiffany Colter, at Command Performance Speakers’ Bureau. or 734.474.5489.

For email updates subscribe to our update newsletter here:

Thanks, again, for letting us share this news with your readers.

Interview by Janalyn Voigt, author of DawnSinger, book one of Tales of Faeraven, to release with Port Yonder Press

Janalyn Voigt (WaySinger)

Reposted from Author Haven


One thought on “Interview with Chip MacGregor, Tiffany Colter and Jim Rubart

  1. Thank you so much for helping us continue to tell writers about this event. I hope the information we shared is useful and that it will help your writers develop in their marketing strategy for writing.

    We will be in Portland, Oregon April 23-24 and would love to have some of your readers take part. The seminar is Writing Bestselling Fiction with Susan May Warren. We just held this event in Atlanta last weekend and it was a huge hit.

    If anyone has questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. Thanks again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s