Agency

Who and What I’m Looking for in 2022 (Bob Hostetler)

(Updated 1/26/2022)

As the hippie chanteuse sang, “The seasons, they go ‘round and ‘round.” Boy howdy. It’s hard to believe that it’s 2022. I’m still writing 1977 on all my checks.

In a few months, I will have been an agent with The Steve Laube Agency for five years. And I’m still learning something new every day—such as which jokes annoy the boss more than which other jokes. But it’s not all about annoying the boss; some of it is valuable insights and strategies for Christian publishing in 2022. So, with that in mind, let me offer this updated answer to the frequent question I field from aspiring, developing, accomplished, and skilled writers: “What are you looking for as a literary agent?”

Influence

Aspiring writers often imagine, “Once I have a book published, people will listen to me.” That’s exactly backwards. Like every publisher and editor I know, I’m looking for people who are already having an impact. They’re writing blog posts that a lot of people read, share, and subscribe to. They’re connecting and engaging with large numbers of people on social media. They’re speaking at events large and small, far and wide. They are not waiting for readers, listeners, and followers to come to them; they are already engaging with people about their genre and topic.

Inspiration

My primary expertise as a writer and speaker has been the Christian market. So, as an agent, I focus my efforts in representing books—both fiction and nonfiction—for the Christian market (though if a proposal has crossover appeal, the resources are available to me to take it to the general market). In particular, I will be interested in:

Fiction: women’s contemporary, historical, timeslip, romance, suspense, thriller.

Nonfiction: Christian living, women’s nonfiction, gift books, devotionals, humor, marriage and family, parenting, prayer, spiritual growth, teens/young adult.

As a rule, I will not be looking at:

Fiction: fantasy, horror, science fiction, middle grade, young adult (YA).

Nonfiction: academic, autobiography/biography, Bible studies, cookbooks, doctrinal issues, memoir, pastoral helps, poetry, sermons, theology.

Investment

I’m not interested in “one-and-done” authors. If you have only one book in you, then I wish you well. But I’m not the right person to help you get it published. I’m looking for writers who have already begun investing in the lifelong task of writing what matters and finding fresh and innovative ways to convey an idea and reach an audience. I’m looking for writers who are teachable, who study their craft, and are willing to accept criticism and correction. I’m looking for writers who love words, phrases, and sentences. I’m looking for writers who are reading widely in their genre (at least), who invite thorough critique, and who will never use the awareness and appreciation of their strengths as an excuse not to work on their weaknesses. I’m looking for writers who are attending writers conferences to educate themselves, network with others, and get better and better at proposals and pitches.

Originality

You thought I was going to insert another “I” word here, right? Tough. Because I’m not looking for predictability. I’m not looking for the next C. S. Lewis, Max Lucado, Priscilla Shirer, or Francine Rivers. They’re all wonderful writers, but I’m looking for ideas and writing so fresh it could never be confused with another writer. I want to see book proposals that surprise me and delight me. I want to represent writers who can flat write. Who can transport me. And who will do it again and again.

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Please see the “Guidelines” link above and follow that information meticulously before submitting a proposal to Bob Hostetler.

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Bring the Books (What Steve Laube Is Looking For)

“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. 300,000+ 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 represented by our agency. 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.

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What I Am Looking For (Dan Balow)

(Updated 1/19/2022) I know it is frustrating for aspiring authors to “decode” the processes involved when working to get published. It seems everything is organized to keep people out, rather than find new writers. On top of this, the publishing world is highly subjective, where no one can speak with …

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A Is for Advance

by Steve Laube

Whenever I lecture about money the room becomes unusually quiet. Instead of a common restlessness from listeners there is a thrumming impatience to reveal the punch line. The punch line that declares every writer will be rich.

Now that I have our attention let’s turn to the topic of the day. The Advance. This is defined as the money a publisher pays to the author in “advance” of the publication of the finished book. We read about the seven-figure advances in the news because they are unusual and quite substantial. The amount given to everyone else can be rather different. (Read the article where Rachelle Gardner answers the question “What is the Typical Advance.”)

Payout Schedule

The money is not given all at once. There is usually an amount given for signing the book contract and the balance comes at various stages of the writing process. Some pay half on signing, half on acceptance of an acceptable manuscript. Some pay one-third on signing, one-third on acceptance, and one-third on publication. There can be other triggers to create payments like an acceptable proposal for subsequent books in a multi-book deal. We even had one highly unusual situation where the total amount of the advance was divided up over the course of 15 months and the publisher paid the author monthly.

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We Have It All!

Recently I received several boxes of books from Steve Laube. Inside were dozens of sample books published by our agency clients. Since he is cheap, frugal, thrifty, fantastic for being concerned about the environment, he sent my books in repurposed containers. One was labeled “Reformed Systematic Theology,” scratched through with …

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A Peek at an Agent’s Emails

As a literary agent, I send and receive a lot of emails. A lot. And that’s not even counting the emails offering my helpful diet tips and donut recipes. My emails aren’t always so practical, but it recently occurred to me that some weary or woeful writers might be helped …

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When Your Proposal Doesn’t Sell

by Steve Laube

It happens. Despite all efforts and good intentions not every proposal we shop will end up being contracted by a major publisher. Of course our agency tries our best to keep that from happening. We carefully choose which projects and authors we represent. And our success rate is extremely high.

But that success rate is not 100%.

Here are a few examples of projects that I represented in past years that did not sell to a major publisher.

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Ten Years!

Ten years ago this week Tamela Hancock Murray signed an agreement to become a part of our agency. Ten years! I was honored then and remain honored that she is part of our team. From managing dozens of fabulous authors to successfully landing hundreds of new book deals, she works …

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