by Tamela Hancock Murray
1) Would you be able to get access to briefs from editors on what they are looking for and suggest to the author if there are any mutually interesting topics or genres?
Yes. Between the three of us, our agency has 81 years in publishing experience. During this time, we have forged individual relationships and true friendships with editors, publishers, marketing people, and of course, authors. We are first on many editors’ lists when news strikes. Because of our reputation for working with top authors and our knowledge of the publishing industry, many times we have been informed exclusively of opportunities for our clients.
Each year, I travel to conferences, particularly ACFW, to strengthen relationships and gain information. Even more all-encompassing is the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) , where I am able to meet with even more editors. Our President, Steve Laube, has attended ICRS 31 years in a row. Speaking of which, because The Steve Laube Agency works as a team, we share information among ourselves regarding what we learn at conferences. For instance, both Steve and Karen Ball usually attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers conference each year. This year I will be on faculty at the Florida Christian Writers Conference . Other opportunities present themselves each year. By splitting our travel, we are able to have additional meetings and gain a great deal of information for our clients.
2) Do you have reach outside the geography you are supporting – ie, since you are in North America, do you have collaborations with agents in the European zone or in Australia / NZ?
While our focus is the U.S. Steve has partnered with foreign rights agents in other countries like South Korea. But it is rare to have a literary agent (vs. a foreign rights agent) based in the UK, Australia or Europe contact us for help with selling their projects.
Our clients tend to be from U.S. and Canada although one is currently living in Mexico and another spends a great deal of time in Panama.
3) Would you be helping with various prizes and help nominate my book?
First, let me say that prizes are great but do not always translate into sales for an author. I know of several ABA and CBA authors who could line their mantles with trophies but can’t pay the electric bill from book sales. There are various reasons this can happen. One is that the awards are given long after the release date of the book and the publisher is no longer proactively supporting it via publicity or additional marketing. And other than a few major awards, no one outside of the industry realizes the book has been honored. Sometimes industry insiders love the book but the public does not share their enthusiasm (as can also happen with TV and movies).
Agents have very little sway in nominating books or helping authors garner awards. For example, publishers nominate books for the Christy Awards and all the editors know how we agents will vote on our authors’ books. We all think our authors should win Christy Awards. With many other awards competitions the author must enter the book and pay the requisite fees.
What agents can do is talk with the author on the best contests to enter when those are the author’s responsibility. This is important for two main reasons. First, contests get expensive because of entry fees, copies of books, and mailing those books. Entering contests also takes time away from writing. Second, contests are not equal. Winning certain prestigious contests will help you more than being recognized by much lesser contests. Still, go back and read the first paragraph in this answer. Agents can help you sort out where best to put your time and money.
As a writer, which conferences do you think are best for fiction? For nonfiction?
As a reader, does an award influence you to purchase a book? Why or why not?