Feb

10

2014

Bring the Books

by Steve Laube

Agency Library

“Bring the books, especially the parchments,” is a sentence in 2 Timothy 4:13 that has teased readers for 2,000 years. What books did the Apostle Paul want to read while waiting for trial? Theology? History? How-to? (Maybe a little escape reading? Pun intended.)

Another writer chimed in a while ago by saying “Of making many books there is no end.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) And if we read the statistics he wasn’t kidding. 200,000+ traditionally published in the United States alone last year.

And yet there is an allure to the stories of great novelists and a fascination in the brilliance of deep thinkers. It is what drew me to the book industry in the first place having been a lifelong reader and a burgeoning collector of my own library.

I can safely say that the allure and fascination remains unabated. I’ve had and continue to have the honor and privilege of working with some of the finest minds and talented writers in our industry. The photo above is from my office showing every book we have represented. Hundreds of amazing books by amazing authors.

Meanwhile I am still searching for the next great story, the next great concept, the next great writer. So, to answer the question, “What are you looking for?” I will attempt to clarify a few things.

Our Door is Always Open

Unsolicited proposals are always welcome. We sift through hundreds of inquiries every year. My only request is that each person try their best to follow our guidelines on our web site. It would astound you how many fail that simple request.

We Primarily Serve the Christian Market

We make no apology for specializing in books written from a Christian worldview. That means we sell books wherever publishers are receptive to books from that perspective. Usually those are Christian publishing companies. But we can sell books to the general market…if that publisher is interested in the content of the book our client has created.

We won’t represent books that are contrary to a Christian worldview. Recently I received a proposal claiming their novel included “vivid sex, graphic torture, romance, comedy….” Another proposed a non-fiction book that redefined sin as something that is actually unbiblical and should not be taught. Obviously neither author had not done their homework regarding our agency.

I’m Looking for Fiction

Note that I am a very eclectic reader which reflects my work as an agent. I represent authors who write in the following genres: Women’s fiction, romance, thriller, suspense, romantic suspense, literary, military, historical (all eras), contemporary, science-fiction, fantasy, supernatural, YA… in other words, every genre published in the industry.

I’m looking for unique storylines with a well refined craft. If something is 80% ready I’ll probably reject it. In school a grade score of 80 would be a low “B.” Our industry is look for the A+.

I’m Looking for Non-Fiction

My eclectic tastes are exhibited by the types of non-fiction books and authors represented. Christian Living, biography, memoir, apologetics, theology, bible study, reference, health, finance, self-help, psychology, grief, suffering, marriage, family, women’s, men’s, philosophy, church life, devotional, inspirational, social issues, politics, parenting, music, and art. The subjects are vast and the opportunities endless.

I am looking for unique ideas by great writers. But as the market has changed, so has some of the demands on the non-fiction author. Your project has to be more than an extended magazine article. It has to have something special that will make the major publisher jump at the chance to invest in you and your work. It can be your platform. It can be the power of your idea. It can be that your writing is unique and compelling. And if you can bring all three I’m confident we could find you a publishing partner.

A Limit to My Expertise

Please do not send your children’s picture book ideas. Yes, I have represented some, but it is not a marketing in which I claim expertise. I can negotiate the contract, but evaluating whether your material is age-appropriate or if your illustrations are top notch is not where I can serve you best.

Please do not send me your cookbook ideas. I may look like I know how to eat, but it doesn’t mean I know the first thing about cooking.

A Limit to My Exceptions

It is a little aggravating when someone sends me their kids book with the first sentence “I know you say you don’t want Children’s picture books, but I think you will make an exception with mine.” Asking for an exception is bold but it is also a waste of time for both the author and for me.

Hard Copy versus E-mail

You can send your proposal to me via email (see our guidelines). But if you send it to me via hard copy with a SASE I guarantee you will get a personal response. The danger of the email inbox is that it gets crowded quickly and your project slowly scrolls off the screen and can very well be forgotten. I try to go through email submissions but hard copy proposals always get reviewed and sit on my desk until I review them myself. I’m aware this is rather old-school, but it works for me. It is your choice of which way you want to send your project to my attention.

However, note that this is unique to me, Steve Laube, at our agency. The other agents are quite comfortable with email submissions.

26 Responses to “Bring the Books”

  1. Diane T. Ashley February 10, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    You’re going to need a bigger bookcase…and soon!

    • Steve Laube February 10, 2014 at 9:27 am #

      Diane,
      So true! Already in the planning.
      And you reminded me of that famous line from the movie “Jaws.” See that clip here: http://youtu.be/8gciFoEbOA8

      • Amy Boucher Pye February 11, 2014 at 12:01 am #

        HIlarious! But who is the shark in this scenario?

  2. Ann Shorey February 10, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    Love the bookcase, Steve! Informative post–thanks.

  3. Terika Farmer February 10, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    Good morning Steve:

    Thanks for another great post. I have two questions:

    1. Firstly, would you mind writers sending a certified SASE submitted manuscript? Sending it through mail, I would just want to ensure that your office actually received it and that it didn’t get lost in the mail or something. So for mail tracking purposes, I’d prefer to send certified, if I opted to send a hardcopy. At the same time, I wouldn’t want it to come off as too pushy of me by asking someone from your office to sign for it.

    2. Secondly, you commented that you won’t represent books that are contrary to a Christian worldview, and you stated that you recently received a proposal where the writer indicated the novel included vivid sex, graphic torture, romance, and comedy. I wanted to ask your opinion about the topic of prostitution, where you might have a heroine starting out in the novel (completely lost in sin), but over the course of the book, she gets introduced to Christ and then converts. Do you think this is a hard topic to sell in the Christian book publishing industry or one that you or another literary agent from your agency would be willing to represent, if it is a well refined craft and not graphic? I am thinking more along the lines where the story is not so much about explicit sexuality and love scenes but rather an eye opening story focused on faith and redemption. I recently read a book entitled “The complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Christian Fiction” and it has been extremely helpful in explaining to writers the craft of writing on certain topics, without it being offensive to potential readers (no cursing, vivid sex scenes, drinking, dancing, smoking, gambling, etc.). I know prostitution and topics alike, are very tough topics that some people simply don’t like to talk about or have it mentioned, so I was just wondering what your opinion is on the likelihood of a novel being successful on the topic………crafted in a way it would be acceptable from a Christian’s perspective. I do know of one great book “Redeeming Love” written by Francine Rivers, but I was just wondering what your opinion is from a market perspective and if you think it can be done, if well crafted.
    Thanks again for this post and all of your posts. I have an email notification letting me know each day, you’ve posted a new one. I read them all and I am learning so much about your expectations as a literary agency and more about how the publishing industry works.

    Thanks so very much.

    Terika Farmer

    • Steve Laube February 10, 2014 at 9:36 am #

      Terika,
      Two answers.
      1) Sending something certified mail is perfectly okay. If you want the security of knowing it has been received.

      2) I don’t like to say “no” unless I’ve seen it. When I was an editor for Bethany House I told an author that a book like you describe would have a tough go of it in our market. That unpublished author wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. She got that book, SHADOW OF DREAMS, published elsewhere (in 2001). And now Eva Marie Everson is a highly successful novelist and the director of the Florida Writers Conference. She has the talent to make a story like that palatable for a wide readership. And that is the key.

      • Terika Farmer February 10, 2014 at 10:23 am #

        Steve:
        I really appreciate your response.

        Terika

  4. Jeanne Takenaka February 10, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    Love those book cases, Steve. What a testament to your agency—filled with authors you folks represent!

    I appreciate hearing what you prefer fiction and non-fiction. Thanks for sharing your likes and dislikes, as well as the fact that you prefer hard copy.

    One question for you that I’ve been pondering. What makes a story unique, in your opinion?

    • Steve Laube February 10, 2014 at 9:41 am #

      Jeanne,

      What makes a story unique? I can only answer with the non-answer of “I know it when I see it.” What is one man’s treasure is another man’s throw-away. Thus is the subjective nature of this industry.

      Recent examples of “unique” books by first-time authors that I was able to place include CHURCH ZERO by Peyton Jones and UNTIL WE ALL COME HOME by Kim de Blecourt and CAST OF STONES by Patrick Carr. (One non-fiction, one memoir, and one fantasy novel.)

  5. pamela black February 10, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    STUCK? CHASE! I had no idea you represented Jennie Allen! Her books have changed my life. I am in the middle of RESTLESS right now and I can say I have cried with her through this book more than ANY bible study I have ever done. She is real. I love her. I have reread page 76 so many times. Her love bleeds off that page. I love her.
    THANK YOU for your part in bringing her words to my heart.
    What amazing things she is doing in the body. I’m trying to find a way to get to the If:gathering. Again, thank you for all you do where God has placed you.

    • Steve Laube February 10, 2014 at 9:45 am #

      Pamela,
      I had the privilege of discovering Jennie Allen at the Mt. Hermon writers conference a few years ago. I was able to sell her first two books and her DVD Curriculum titles, like STUCK and CHASE, to Thomas Nelson. However, as part of her need for a different type of representation, to help with her recent IF: GATHERING conference which was held last weekend, she moved to a different agency.

  6. Erin Taylor Young February 10, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    What I wanna know, Steve, is whether the rest of your office is as neat and tidy as those bookcases. : )

    • Steve Laube February 10, 2014 at 9:47 am #

      Erin,

      Parts of the office are immaculate. There are nearly 5,000 books in my office/library. But my desk is a place where I work out of piles instead of files. It is an abject disaster.

  7. Thomas Allbaugh February 10, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    Steve, on the first interesting point you raise in this blog, I’d like to add that I think there’s plenty of evidence right in his letters that he read Plato and pagan poetry. I think that in addition to being an Old Testament scholar, he knew Greek culture pretty well. That was his ministry, of course.

  8. Gail Helgeson February 10, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    My dream…My book on that shelf one day!

    Back to work on it now.

    Good day to you.
    Blessings

    • Steve Laube February 10, 2014 at 9:51 am #

      Gail,

      That would be fun.
      It is really quite extraordinary to have those books lined up together. And then to consider that over 11 million people have bought these books over the last ten years. It is both my prayer and my hope that the ministry of these words continue to impact the lives of their readers.

      • Terika Farmer February 10, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

        Gail:
        This is my dream too.

        Best wishes on your writing endeavors.

        Terika

  9. Martha Rogers February 10, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    Love the bookcases. Wish mine were so well organized. This is a great article to share with those who are wondering about getting an agent. Confession: I’ve been in awe of you since we first met at a ACW conference in Houston years ago. You took the time to really talk to me and gave me sound advice.It’s a great privilege to be represented by your agency and Tamela.

    • Steve Laube February 10, 2014 at 9:53 am #

      Martha,
      You are too gracious. Way back in those beginnings you took the time, risk, and investment to go to a conference and lay your ideas in front of a stranger who worked for a publishing company. That step is one of many you took, following the urging of the Spirit, along the journey toward publication. Ultimately you connected with Tamela and history was made. Well done.

      Steve

  10. Lisa February 10, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    I just love bookshelves, everyone I’ve ever seen. I’m growing closer to querying for the first time. Being patient for it has been hard, but I’m thankful for all God has done in my writing and laying the foundation for future publication- God willing.

  11. Nick Kording February 10, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

    Love the insights. Hate to ask for more when you are giving us so much info, but I have two questions.

    1. Do you consider co-written works (I co-wrote a Christian living book with our pastor).

    2. You said you’re looking for fiction and non-fiction, so:
    A. Non-fiction: does that include studies or just Christian living?
    B. Fiction: what about Christian thrillers?

    Okay, that was really three. Thanks in advance!

  12. Rose McCauley February 11, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    I love the neat bookcases, too, and hope my next book will soon be displayed there. May you continue to fill many more bookcases and many more minds with God’s truths.

  13. Ronald F. Bradford February 24, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    Brother Laube,
    I currently have four books published through self-publishing.All four are through createspace.com. My first was published through Xlibris as a self puplished work. I republishe it with a new ISBN as a second edition through the createspace.com folks. If I send already self-published works to you that I have already been trying to self-market, would you consider those or would I need to put them back into a double-spaced manuscript prior to sending? The other three books make up a trilogy of about 940 pages. The genre is historical fiction in all my books written with a flavoring throughout with a Christian slant.

    Thanks for considering my work.
    I have been attending writers conferences and workshops for three years now and have learned that to have any chance of expanding beyond my own reach, I need help. (All who have read my works have thoroughly enjoyed them)

    • Steve Laube March 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

      I’ll write a blog about how to submit a self-published book. Thank you for the suggestion.

      In a nutshell? I suggest acting like the book doesn’t exist. Instead start fresh with the proposal materials and the sample chapters. That way it is the words on the page that you are selling and there is no influence, good or bad with the finished product.

      Steve

  14. RAYMOND A HEDLEY March 8, 2014 at 3:45 am #

    Brother Steve – It is refreshing to read of the many of Christian writers you have helped along the way. I’m a christian writer – mainly screenplay and films – as a Cecil B. DeMillie type – as a storyteller for the Lord God Almighty the great 3 – in one Godhead of the Father – Son – and His Holy Spirit – you mentioned sending hard copy by mail or emailing – where do CD’s fall because that allows you less paperwork and able to look at on you computer with less clutter. Will you still be able to respond back personally in this format?

    Works are already 2x copyrighted – Lib of Congress Wash DC and WSGR of Hollywood. Would love your feed back – written as non fiction action adventures of the jouurney of real lives of Biblical people – by much – prayer and fastibg – to share and tell of the changing power of God in their lives and in our own if we will surrender our will over to HIM or THEM – the TRINITY. Shalom. R A Hedley

    • Steve Laube March 8, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

      A CD is not something I like to work with. Either send the proposal as an attachment to an email (following the guidelines) or send a hard copy as mentioned above.

      A CD is like an attachment as I still have to have it printed out to get it reviewed properly in-house.

      But I can say that a “non-fiction” action adventure of Biblical people would not be of interest to the publishers we work with.

      And we do not work with screenplays. That is a highly specialized discipline with the need for a different network than we have.

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