Book Proposals

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 absolute certainty about much of anything.

How do I know if something is good? I don’t know, but I know it when I see it. And even then, others might not agree with me.

Since most of my connections are with publishers of Christian-themed books, I need to start there to give an idea of what I look for in a client. (I can expand to the broader market in certain circumstances.)

I look for authors of nonfiction works, mainly for adults but will consider nonfiction for younger groups once in a while. I will also expand to consider compelling content for children.

I do not consider authors of fiction. Other agents are far better than I for that area.

I need to view the world through the eyes of publishers, so I ask questions of potential clients, consistent with publisher requirements. Other than compelling writing, here are three other things I am looking for in authors:

  • Credibility: You need to be qualified to write on the topic of your book. Theology books are written by respected theologians, apologetics books by respected apologists, nutrition and exercise books by nutritionists and exercise gurus, etc. Even if you are an excellent writer, you need to have the credentials accompanying whatever you might create.
  • Focus: Few authors can navigate a wide variety of categories successfully; and, if they do, they are usually successful in one before trying the other. Just because you can do a variety of writing doesn’t mean you should. Regardless, you need to start somewhere.
  • Marketing: Great writing still counts, but you won’t get far without a great start to personal marketing. Lack of an author platform will be a problem down the line, so get started now if you haven’t already.

Finally, should you be published by a traditional publisher, that book might not be the first one you write. Be prepared to adjust, pivot, and take a different direction. Agent and author agendas are not always publisher agendas at a particular point in time. Timing is a significant issue.

Like you, the agents with The Steve Laube Agency exercise our gifts, deal with disappointment, and learn to trust God more and more each day. I pray God grants me the wisdom to make wise decisions to serve authors well.

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