Two Basic Tips on Budgeting with an Irregular Income

by Tamela Hancock Murray

Senior man checking home finances

One challenge of writing books for a living is the fact that unlike many other jobs, you don’t usually see a cycle of paychecks appearing at regular intervals with predictable amounts. Instead, you may see a whoosh of money, followed by smaller amounts every few months triggered by actions on your part, such as turning in manuscripts and proposals. Only well-established authors will have this income augmented by royalty checks, and even then, those checks feel infrequent (to the author) and are unpredictable in amount.

This isn’t much of a worry if you’re not using writing income to pay bills, which do arrive on time every time, with startling regularity. But if you’re hoping to pay bills with this income, here are two basic management tips:

1.) Realize that your advance is a payment against future earnings. It is not a signing bonus. Once you accept the advance, your book must earn that advance back before you see any royalties. So while your advance may seem like a windfall, it is not. I recommend dividing the advance payment by the number of months you will need to fulfill your contract and using that figure as a guideline to your true budget. For an example using easy math, if you will take two years to fulfill a book contract and your advance after agent’s commission is $48,000, you have $2,000 a month income from your books. But don’t spend it all because of…

2.) …Taxes. I recommend budgeting at least 30% of your income for federal, state, and local taxes, and 40% is even better, especially if your total household income is high. Part of the reason is because you are now responsible for the employer’s portion of Social Security. It’s better to budget too much and be happily surprised at tax time than not enough and have to scrounge for funds on short notice later. But as always, please seek a personalized plan for yourself from a professional tax adviser. My point here is not to forget to hold back enough for taxes.

As for the rest, be wise and be sure to have a little fun, too!

Your turn:

What are some tips and tricks you can share for managing an irregular income?

What is the hardest aspect of living on an irregular income?




So Long, 2013…HELLO, 2014!

by Karen Ball

happy new year dog

2013 was an amazing year full of ups and downs, gain and loss, joy and sadness. I lost 3 dear friends, one of whom was in his 30s, one of whom was just a few years younger than I, and one of whom I’ve known since I was 2 years old. We in the industry lost so many–some, like wonderful agent and friend Lee Hough and the amazing Diann Hunt–far sooner than any of us wished. The joy? They all were solid in their faith in Christ, so we’ll see them again. But saying good-bye is never easy. Thank God for his peace and comfort. And HOPE!

Professionally, it’s been a whiz-bang year. It’s always such fun to discover and sign new clients, and it’s even more fun to see clients, existing and new, find publishing homes! As I’ve walked through the many steps on this publishing journey with clients, from the blissful “We’ve received an offer!” to the turbulent “Whatever made me think I could write??”, I’ve been reminded why I love this industry so much.

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Exceptions are Exceptions Because they are Exceptions

by Dan Balow

Dollar in the bag

You can self-publish a book, sell 10,000 copies in the first week, 50,000 in the second week and be a millionaire in three months.

You can write a book and mail it to a publisher, they publish it without meeting you and you become a wealthy household name.

An antiques dealer can knock on your door and offer you $250,000 for your end table that you bought last summer at a garage sale for $5.

You could be called out from the stands, given a basketball and offered a million dollars if you make a basket from seventy-five feet away. And you do.

These things could happen. But they are exceptions. Exceptional exceptions, but exceptions nevertheless. Planning your life or career around them would be rather futile and frustrating.

The Oprah Winfrey Show was the Holy Grail for publishers when she started her book club in 1996. Her endorsement of a book made it an instant bestseller. Do you know how many books she selected over 16 years? Seventy-two…that is 72.

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Steve Laube Buys Marcher Lord Press


Below the following announcement is a question and answer session with Steve Laube.

 (January 1, 2014 – Phoenix, AZ) Steve Laube, president of The Steve Laube Agency, has agreed to purchase Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy for the Christian market. The sale was finalized on January 1, 2014.

Laube has long been a champion of the genre, going back to his days as an acquisition editor at Bethany House Publishers. Jeff Gerke, the founder of Marcher Lord Press, said “I could not have found a better person to buy the company I started in 2008.” Marcher Lord Press has a backlist of about 40 titles with many of them nominated or winning both Christy and Carol awards for being the best in their genre.

The new Marcher Lord Press will be run as a separate company from Steve Laube’s literary agency. The agency, founded in 2004, has four agents and over 150 active authors (www.stevelaube.com) with contracts for nearly 1,000 new books. Gerke will focus his efforts on his freelance editorial and publishing service business and his own writing.

“The plan is to continue with what Jeff started and release between 4-8 new titles in 2014,” Laube said. “I have long believed that this genre has been underserved in our industry despite its inherent ability to tell ‘Fantastic’ stories of philosophical and theological depth.”


Q & A with Steve Laube

Why Marcher Lord Press?

I have had a passion for Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy ever since my days as an editor for Bethany House Publishers in the 90s. I first fell in love with science fiction as a kid reading Mysterious Island by Jules Verne and the Pellucidar books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Fiction can portray the power of the Gospel through great stories of redemption, hope, and grace. Science Fiction is a unique genre that attempts to answer the philosophical and theological questions of “Who are we?” and “Why are we here?” In most Fantasy novels there is an implicit story of good versus evil where good triumphs. In addition the whole genre has the opportunity to build worlds never before explored (to quote the famous line: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”). The boundaries for creativity in  storytelling are limitless. No other genre can do that quite the same way.

Aren’t you competing with the same publishers to whom you sell your client’s proposals?

Technically the answer is “yes,” but practically the answer is “no.” Few publishers in the Christian market publish the science fiction or fantasy genres. And yet we continue to sell our clients to those who do well with these books. Patrick Carr, for example, just agreed to a new contract with Bethany House. Lisa Bergren’s YA titles are published by both David C. Cook and the Blink imprint of Zonderkidz. Chuck Black has a new adventure series releasing this Spring from Waterbrook/Multnomah and Evangeline Denmark has just signed with Blink.

In addition, Marcher Lord Press (MLP) releases only 4-8 titles per year. The readership of the genre are enthusiastic and voracious. Thus I don’t see MLP being competition in the larger sense of the word.

One publisher talked with me last Friday and applauded the move saying “We need champions of great fiction in our market.”

Isn’t this a conflict of interest with other agents?

I don’t see that as a problem. The agent community is a small one and we tend to know each other and respect each other’s abilities. I look forward to helping authors find their place and their voice in a niche genre. Our own agency’s agents will have the chance to sell to the imprint because it is set up as a company separate from The Steve Laube Agency. Amanda Luedeke with MacGregor Literary addressed this in her blog last Thursday.

Isn’t this a conflict of interest with authors? Are you only going to publish your agency’s authors?

The goal is to publish the best. Nothing changes in that regard. There are some tremendous writers already in the MLP catalog and I hope to continue those relationships. We will also be looking for new voices as well as those that are already established.

We will consider both agented and unagented submissions. The submission guidelines are found on the Marcher Lord Press website.

What about books published under the Hinterlands imprint of Marcher Lord Press and the recently released Amish Vampires in Space?

These are actually two different issues and should be treated separately. I chose not to purchase those assets and agreed to have those publication rights sold elsewhere or revert to their respective authors.

Hinterlands was created in 2012 as an imprint of MLP to publish science-fiction and fantasy stories with mature content and themes (i.e. PG-13 or R-rated language, sexuality, and violence). That imprint and all those titles have been sold by Jeff Gerke to a third party and will likely reappear under a new publishing name in the near future.

Amish Vampires in Space was not part of Hinterlands and is a well written book (no surprise considering Kerry Neitz is the author). Jeff Gerke, Kerry Neitz, and I discussed this prior to my purchasing MLP. While we have differing opinions on its publication, ultimately it would not have been a book I would have published had I been the publisher. The title has reverted to Kerry and the book is still available for sale in most major online outlets.

What is your vision for the new Marcher Lord Press?

A “Marcher Lord” was a noble warrior who served as guardian of the borderlands. That definition is a perfect metaphor for the Science Fiction and Fantasy stories published by MLP. We will continue to build the company on its existing foundation and through the power of great stories explore the boundaries of imagination. It is there where heroic adventures, sacrificial living, and redemptive characters are found.

Initially it will be business as usual. The people and resources already in place will remain unchanged. There are plans for a number of new releases in 2014 including the debut novel by Nadine Brandes called A Time to Die (which you must read) as well as the continuation of other ongoing series by John Otte, Morgan Busse, and Stuart Stockton. MLP has been and will continue to be the premier publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy for the Christian market.

A Thank You

I would like to thank Jeff Gerke for the hard work, actually his blood, sweat, and tears, that he put into founding and building Marcher Lord Press into the company it is today.

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A Year in Review

by Tamela Hancock Murray

2013, 2014 Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

This year has been one of success and career growth for me. I am humbled and grateful to work with outstanding writers and the best editors in the business.


As with every year, the needs and expectations of publishing houses continue to change and grow. Publishers are maintaining and even exceeding past quality to offer readers the best Christian books possible. This means that each year, new writers face more challenges to break in, and established authors must be vigilant in writing fresh stories to meet the criteria of The Steve Laube Agency and the publishers we work with. But the writer who’s willing to work hard and hone craft, and to be cheerful even when times get tough, stands the best chance of successful publication.


I enjoyed being on faculty at the Florida Christian Writers Conference and ACFW this year. Once again, both conferences proved to be top notch and I enjoyed meeting authors and keeping in touch with publishing friends. ICRS was another highlight, as always, for the same reasons.

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Welcome 2014!

by Karen Ball


I don’t know about you, but I could swear 2013 just started! Where has the year gone? Those of us in the agency will share some thoughts about 2013 soon, but for today, as you welcome the very first day of a whole new year, I just want to wish you a Happy New Year and share one of my favorite singers with you—along with some beautiful images to usher in 2014.

May God touch each of you in the coming year with His presence, provision, and peace!

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What’s Another Word for Thesaurus?

by Dan Balow


On this last day of 2013, I think the best use of this space is to offer up my favorite quotes related to books, writing or from authors. Without further delay from the fun, here they are:

“What’s another word for thesaurus?” (Steven Wright)

“This is the sixth book I’ve written, which isn’t bad for a guy who’s only read two.” (George Burns)

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire PR officers.” (Daniel J. Boorstin)

“Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.”  (Mark Twain)

“When I am dead, I hope it may be said: ‘His sins were scarlet but his books were read.” (Hilliare Belloc)

“In Australia, not reading poetry is the national pastime.”  (Phyllis McGinley)

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2013 – A Year in Review

by Steve Laube Businessman on a ladder ticking boxes showing opinion terms on grey background What a year it has been. I’m tempted to write that sentence and leave the rest of this page blank. It would be easier than to remember and recite all that has come to pass. But it is a healthy exercise nonetheless.

Agency Business

The biggest news of all was adding another agent to our group. This past Summer we welcomed Dan Balow to our ranks. He is a fabulous addition and is already making his “agenting” mark. Just don’t talk to him about Cheez-its.

Despite some sudden changes in our industry (see below) we continue to secure publishing deals for our clients. The good news for writers is that content is still king. Without great content there would be no commerce.

The forecast continues to be sunny at our Agency.

The Industry

Random House officially merged with Penguin to form Penguin Random House. Most of the infrastructure changes that would affect us have been completed.

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Fun Fridays – December 27, 2013

Top this!

The above was created in response to Claude Van Damme’s original:
src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/M7FIvfx5J10?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

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