Get Published

How to Make (Some) Agents and Editors Smile

Believe it or not, agents and editors are people too.

In my experience, at least. They’re not mean or grumpy—most of them. They’re not lying in wait for a chance to dash a writer’s dreams. They don’t enjoy saying no.

They’re mostly a good sort. They like to be liked. And they truly appreciate and will often remember a few small things that writers do, whether in an email, in an appointment, or across the cafeteria table at a writers conference. If you want to make them smile (and possibly hold onto a positive memory of you), try doing these few simple things:

  1. Get his or her name right.

Sure, I get frequent emails with the salutation to “Steve.” That’s mostly understandable, since I am a serf—er, I mean representative—of The Steve Laube Agency. But I’ve also been addressed as “Ben,” “Bob Harrison,” and “Mr. Hostetzer,” among others. Believe me, I understand the ease of cut-and-paste and also how easy it is to misspell a name. (I once signed a book to a guy who said his name was Bob, and then handed it back to me, telling me it was spelled “Bobb.” Well, okay.) But whether in speech or writing, getting the name right is an elementary ingredient of a good first impression.

  1. Express curiosity.

Remember, editors and agents are (mostly) normal. Like most people, they feel honored and valued when someone asks questions about their life and work. So express curiosity. Ask, “What’s your favorite part of your job?” “What book are you most excited about right now?” and “What would you really love to see from writers that you’re not seeing?”

  1. Follow instructions.

Pay attention to editors’ and agents’ guidelines and preferences. If he says he prefers to see a full proposal, don’t send a query. If she says she’s not looking for fantasy, don’t say, “I know you say you don’t represent fantasy, but I think you’ll change your mind when you read this.” On the other hand, when you say something like, “I’ve benefited often from your blog posts so you may recognize my name as a frequent commenter” or “I noticed that your blurb in the conference mentioned a love for historical fiction,” you might get a nod, a smile, and a listening ear.

  1. Say “thank you.”

The cynic says, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I say, “Publishing, like the rest of life, is all about relationships.” So even if your idea didn’t result in a parade or confetti shower, a sincere “thank you” is always a good idea, whether it’s in person, via email, or in a handwritten note (remember those?). And in my case, a “Donutgram” is always a good way to say “thank you.”

Sure, these are all elementary. But you would probably be surprised at how rare these things are. Rare enough to elicit a smile from an overworked editor or agent.

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What Are Average Book Sales?

by Steve Laube

We recently received the following question:

“What does the average book sell today? An industry veteran at a writers conference recently said 5,000. What??? I know it all depends….but … nowhere near 5K, right?”

My simple answer?

It’s complicated.
It depends.


Average is a difficult thing to define. And each house defines success differently. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at one publisher they celebrate and have steak dinners. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at another publisher you find staff members fearing for their jobs and in total despair.

Let me give you some real numbers but not revealing the author name (and there is a wide variety of publishers represented):

Author 1: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 8,300

Author 2: novelist – 12 books – avg. sale = 19,756

Author 3: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 7,000

Author 4: novelist – 7 books – avg. sale = 5,300 (Two different publishers)

Author 5: non-fiction devotional – 5 books – avg. sale 10,900

Author 6: non-fiction – 2 books – avg. sale = 5,300

Author 7: novelist – 4 books – avg. sale = 29,400

Author 8: non-fiction – 3 books – avg. sale = 18,900

Author 9: fiction – 7 books – avg. sale = 12,900

Author 10: non-fiction – 5 books – avg. sale = 6,800 (three different publishers)

So you can see it DOES depend. Depends on the author and publisher and topic or genre.

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How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

How much time does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail side of the equation. The biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification. But book publishing is a process business.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers the diversity can be quite extreme.

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Tips on Writing a Novella

Today’s guest post is written by one of our clients, Lynn A. Coleman ( She is the founder of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), as well as the author of more than 50 novels and novellas. She lives with her husband of 45 years, who is the lead pastor of a …

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Would You Buy Your Own Book?

When I ask a room of writers if they would buy their own book if they saw it on the shelf at a major bookstore I am met with a variety of reactions. Laughter. Pensiveness. Surprise. And even a few scowls. How would you answer that question?

But the question is meant to ask if your book idea is unique. Whether it will stand out among the noise of the competition.

It is not a question of whether your book is important or valuable or even well written. It is ultimately a question of commercial viability.

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Criticism Is an Unhappy Part of the Business

I would like to tell you about a most enjoyable day. Our agency’s guidelines request that unsolicited manuscripts come via the post (I know it’s old-school but it works for us), but we still receive e-mail submissions. I spent an entire morning going through that particular in-box, having an assistant send standard e-mail rejection letters, since none were anything our agency could/would handle.

Very soon I received three separate responses:

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Even the Best Get Rejected


I’ve written about rejection before and yet it is a topic that continues to fascinate.

Recently Adrienne Crezo did an article on famous authors and their worst rejection letters. I thought you might enjoy reading a couple highlights of that article and some additional stories I have collected over the years.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected by Alfred Knopf saying it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
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Write for Narcissists

Every reader is a narcissist. Hold on, there. Don’t get all mad and sassy yet. Let me explain I often tell developing writers, “No one reads about other people; we read only about ourselves.” Go ahead and quote me, just be sure to give me credit and send me the …

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Who Gets Paid in Publishing?

With all the talk about Independent publishing vs. Traditional publishing and the talk about how writers can get rich if they follow a certain plan…I got to thinking. Maybe we should do a quick look at the Economics of Publishing to see if anyone is making off like a bandit. Sorry for you non-numbers people, but it is critical to understand the infrastructure (i.e. the lifeblood) that keeps your ideas in print.

The detective in the movie says “Follow the money,” so we shall. But first a disclaimer. These models are estimates based on years of reading contracts, profit and loss sheets, spreadsheets, and royalty statements. Your mileage may vary.

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