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Ten Commandments for Working with Your Agent

By request, here are my Ten Commandments for working with your agent. Break them at your own peril. Thou shalt vent only to thine agent and never directly to thy publisher or editor.

  1. Thou shalt not get whipped into a frenzy by the rumor mill fomented by internet loops, groups, Facebook, or blogs.
  2. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s success. Be content with thine own contract.
  3. If thou hast a dispute with thine agent thou shalt talk to thy agent and seekest resolution. Jumping ship for no good reason is unprofessional…and agents talketh to each other.
  4. Thou shalt consider thy deadlines as sacrosanct. Thy hand signeth the contract, therefore thou art obligated. Thou shalt not expect thy agent to miraculously create extra time, at the last minute.
  5. Respecteth the boundaries of the communication relationship with thy agent. Do not risketh being classified as a spammer or high maintenance by thy agent.
  6. Thou shalt be reasonable and balanced with regard to all social media. (Thy social networking and Internet writing shouldeth be related to marketing efforts or to increasing thy platform and readership.) Remembereth…every word written on social media is a word not written on thy manuscript.
  7. Keepeth it all in perspective. Selling only eight thousand books still meaneth 8,000 people have “bought a ticket” to read thy work. That crowd would filleth a basketball arena.
  8. Remember thy calling to be a writer and keep it holy. You are in the business of changing the world word by word. Everything else is secondary.
  9. Thou shall rise and call thy agent blessed. (and send chocolates at Christmas and cash on birthdays…)
  10. If thou dost not have an agent, do not passeth “Go.” Instead grabbeth one and bringeth said agent into thy camp ASAP. This industry is a labyrinth and thou shalt someday discover thou needest one, and then it shall be too late. Real life examples available upon request.

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Permission is granted to use this in your own blog or web site, as long as you include the following copyright notice:
© 2020 Steve Laube of The Steve Laube Agency (
www.stevelaube.com)

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E-Books Redux: Behind the Stats

I had hoped to let yesterday’s post put much of my thoughts to rest on the issue of e-books…at least for a while.

But today I came across this article “What Amazon Didn’t Say About E-Books” by David Carnoy for CNET. In the article he makes some very strong statements regarding Amazon’s claim of reaching a “tipping point” with regard to Kindle sales and its impact on e-book sales.

Do yourself a favor and read the article.

Then vow to lay it all aside for the rest of the Summer and write your book!

And no, the picture for this post is not our cat. I simply found the picture and thought it might get your attention. Feel free to submit your own caption for the photo in the comment section.

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More E-Book News: Behind the Stats

Today’s Wall Street Journal online quotes Amazon.com as saying that ebooks have outsold hardcover books over the last three months.

Additional statistics from that article include: “Amazon sought to suggest that Amazon remains the leading retailer for e-books. The company said that of the 1.14 million James Patterson e-books sold as of July 6, nearly 868,000 were from Amazon.” Also, “in June, Apple CEO Steve Jobs had claimed that his company’s iBookstore, which launched in April, had taken 20% of the market.”

My observations of these developments are two-fold.
One. Everyone is claiming “dominance” but no one is sharing actual verifiable data. It’s like standing on the playground in pre-school and saying “my Dad can beat up your Dad.”

Two. Claiming that e-books have outsold hardcovers is disingenuous if they are counting free downloads as sales. Remember when Amazon claimed that on Christmas Day they sold more e-books than p-books? Of course they did. Everyone who received a Kindle as a gift, turned it on and downloaded books. Who else was shopping for books on Christmas Day?

Remember the news adage “if it bleeds it leads.” So just because something makes a great headline and a press release doesn’t necessarily reflect day-to-day mundane reality.

By the way, take a look at the comments section of yesterday’s blog entry. Randy Ingermanson provided some great thoughts and I responded with a couple other things to consider as well as part of the ongoing discussion on this issue.

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E-Book Sales: Behind the Stats

There is mixed news with regard to book sales in May of this year. Store sales were down 2.6% but publisher sales were up by 9.8%. Read all the various stats here. Remember these are simply comparison of 2010 monthly numbers with 2009.

The biggest area of growth, percentage-wise, is in e-books (up 162.8%).

But lets look at actual dollars, not percentages.

Publisher sales (according to the Association of American Publishers) were $715.3 million in May. Of that total, e-books accounted for $29.3 million…or about 4%. If this was a 162% jump over 2009, then e-book sales in May of last year were $11.2 million.

There is no question that this is a huge leap. But it still means that 96% of all sales are still in hard copy.

Many experts claim that in five years (by the year 2015) that e-books will “tip” and account for over 50% of all book sales. I’ve heard this from two major publishers (one was the head of the digital initiatives for that publisher) and from my friend Randy Ingermanson in his excellent e-zine (read pages 2-11 for his full report on the issue).

For that to happen a 100% growth rate would have to be sustained. That would mean 2011 would have e-books at 8% of sales, 2012 at 16% of sales, 2013 at 32%, etc.

I’m not arguing that it won’t happen.

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ICRS Observations 2010

Some have asked for my thoughts on this past week’s International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in St. Louis. I’m glad to answer. This was my 29th consecutive booksellers convention. At its height there were approximately 14,000 in attendance, many years ago. That is no longer the case. Statistics released indicate …

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Incoming Proposals

To your left is an actual picture of the pile of proposals our office has received since December 1, 2009. About 30 days worth of incoming mail…during a slow time of the year. The stack of books next to the pile include books sent for review (consideration) and recent publications that I want to look at.

That does not include the myriad of email submissions we get (many simply ignoring our guidelines regarding email submissions)…inquiries from those who use the contact form on our web site (many of those ignoring the request to “Please do not copy and paste your entire manuscript into this form.“)

Or the poor soul that failed to proofread their email before sending this sentence, “I would like to send you my quarry letter….”

Nor does it include those that do an Internet search and call us. Recently we got a call that went something like this:
Agency: This is the Steve Laube Agency…
Caller: What kind of agency are you?
Agency: We are a literary agency.
Caller: What does that mean?

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A Year in Review

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The Christmas glow is still present and since the publishing world is, in essence, on vacation, it is a perfect time to to reflect on the past twelve months.

This was a hard year for many as the economy touched everyone in some way. And yet, despite the ominous cloud of doom and gloom, there were many exciting things to celebrate.

On a personal level our middle daughter was married at the end of June. What a joy to see God at the center of the ceremony. And our oldest daughter had a blast playing keyboards for Alice Cooper (singing “School’s Out”) in front of 50,000 people at the ASU graduation ceremony in May.

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The Wave of Digital Creativity in Books

I went to high school in Hawaii (I know.. a rough life) where I learned the joys and perils of body surfing. That experience is a great metaphor for the new “waves” of digital revolution we are seeing in the publishing world.

The key to great body surfing is waiting for the right wave and then time your push just right. The ride is exhilarating (I still remember riding inside the tube of a perfect wave off the beaches of Kauai). BUT if you catch the wrong wave or mistime the push, there is no ride. Or worse, catch a wave that throws you wildly into a bunch of rocks…

But unless you are in the water and making attempt after attempt you will never achieve the perfect ride.

I see this metaphor applied to the new world of digital publishing. It is really fun to play a small part, but even more fun to watch others be extremely creative in their experiments. There are some very bright and exciting people trying new things in merging the traditional book with all things “interactive.”

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2009 ICRS Observations

Like many going into the 2009 ICRS convention (aka CBA or the Christian Booksellers Association convention) I was wondering what would be found. It was great to see that instead of the projected doom and gloom there was light and hope. (Yes, that is Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber in the photo to the left – courtesy of Christian Retailing Magazine.) A few observations:

1) The total convention exhibit floor was about 30% smaller than in past years and the middle section, housing CBA’s events and displays was HUGE. In fact you could walk through the entire book section very rapidly for the first time in years. Everything seemed condensed.

2) The net effect of the smaller sales floor was that you felt the crowds. There was noise, energy, and excitement in the air. This was a major change over previous years where it always felt so quiet.

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ICRS / CBA Bookseller’s Convention

Today is the official opening of the convention in Denver. This year will be my 28th consecutive ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) or CBA as we veterans still call it (Christian Booksellers Association Convention). I absolutely love the experience. I’ve attended as a retailer, as an exhibitor, and now as an “industry professional.” I find it amusing that each name badge is color-coded to help exhibitors know whether the person in their booth is a bookseller (and thereby a potential customer) or a browser, like me. What makes it particularly fun is that the “agent” color is black….the color of an agent’s soul.

PRO: There is nothing like the experience of walking the floor of the world’s largest Christian bookstore. Everything is there, the good, the bad, and the outrageous (like the balloon art crucifix or the painting of a junkie shooting heroin into the arm of Jesus). The spirit is electric. It can be overwhelming, but ultimately it is a picture of God at work. As a writer you can meet key people, network with fellow writers, collect catalogs (those that aren’t digital), and simply increase knowledge of what the industry is all about.

CON: Unrealized expectations. Too many writers think the convention should be all about them. It isn’t. Disappointment is palatable with some folks at the end of the experience. Their publisher didn’t pay enough attention to them; not enough people came to their signing; no editor was available for an appointment…etc. Go to the convention with modest expectations and the chance of disappointment with be minimized.

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