Steve

The Wild Pitch

It is the third month of the Major League baseball season so I thought it would be fun to explore the concept of having a quality pitch. As with baseball, the author needs to pitch their ideas in an effective manner. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

Every once in a while a baseball pitcher uncorks a horrific throw that sails past the batter and everyone wonders what happened. (Click here for a quick 24 second clip as an example.) In baseball terms this is classified as a wild pitch.

Unfortunately many writers unleash a wild pitch at an agent or an editor. We can only wonder what the writer was thinking. What follows are twelve pitches that have been tossed my way.

“Save for the Bible, the book you’re holding in your other hand is the most important work you’ll ever read! Let me know what you think.”

“I found the information about you encouraging and uplifting, as opposed to some others that seem a little too much like angry puppets of the establishment.”

“Thrilled by the idea of making a bomb, they fill a beer bottle and then hurl the “Molotov cocktail” at the shanty…It erupts in a mushroom cloud of flame. Giggling at first, the horrified pair gasps at the sight of a human torch in a window.”  [[one paragraph later in the cover letter it claims…]] “It’s laugh-out-loud funny.

“I sincerely doubt you will engage in any business with me, just because that’s how sick and sordid the industry has become…I mean, I produced the piece of work, you didn’t. Now, I challenge you to do your job.”

“If Dan Brown wrote my religious thriller [book one title], it would be more thrilling than the da Vinci Code. And if Michael Crichton wrote my apocalyptic [book two title], it would be a more exciting story than Prey. Finally, if Clive Cussler wrote my crypto-history [book three title], it would have more depth, realism and complexity than Atlantis Found.

Subject line of the email said: “DON’T READ THIS.”
(So I didn’t.)

“WARNING, this query, in all likelihood, will not meet your all submission requirements because your submission requirements probably don’t meet the needs of this novel.”

“I came across your listing on the internet. You would not have been my first choice…”

“All my literary efforts…are stirring works caught in the vortex of disintegrating modernity. Each work is a mixed genre, essentially fiction-fantasy-history, with an environmental twist, and many young folks.”

“This novel is…an enjoyable romp with outrageous characters and themes that just about anyone can identify with; including sinister ‘friends,’ insane parents, existential nausea, jealousy, and sexual frustration.”

My book is “an egregious 866,000 words…Despite its bulk, I have read it three times over…and still love it….Action, adventure, magic, romance, sex, theology, and horrible, ugly violence are all to be found within.”
(To the writer’s credit, they admitted its length was a tad over the normal limit.)

On December 22nd our office received a query letter that gave us until January 5th to make a decision or they were going to self-publish. Might want to give that “ultimatum” some thought?

A good pitch, on the other hand, is delivered with focus and precision. Think about it for a minute. A baseball pitcher starts by learning how to grip the ball. Then comes the best way to actually throw the ball. Some adjust their arm angle to achieve the optimal way to maintain the right speed for a particular pitch.

Don Sutton, a great pitcher in his day, was not known for his overpowering arm but he learned that the genius of his delivery came from his legs and core body strength. Each pitcher finds his own comfort zone and type of pitch that works for them. Some are all about speed (Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Sandy Koufax could all throw over 100 mph), others are all about curveballs or change ups. And some are about placement in, or out, of the strike zone. Or like Mariano Rivera who had a wicked cutter.

Much like a major league pitcher you must work on your delivery. Find the best way to pitch your idea in such a way that it is easy to catch. Focus. Precision. Intent. And a pitch that is really strong.

Let’s carry the concept one step further. Each pitcher is different, just like each writer is different. For every Randy Johnson, strikeout artist, there is a Wilbur Wood, whose knuckleball pitch was almost impossible to hit squarely. But each pitcher uses the same fundamentals of grip, arm speed, leg strength, and follow through.

Watch this incredible one inning pitching performance by Randy Johnson in 2001:

Play Ball!

 

[This is an updated version of a post that ran in March 2012.]

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Gray Saturday

I wrote this many years ago and read it every Easter weekend as a reminder. May it speak to you in some small way.

Gray Saturday
by Steve Laube

Holy weekend is such a study in contrasts.

Friday is dark. Somber. Frightening in its hopelessness and pain.
I do not like Dark Fridays.
The nails bury themselves deep into my soul.
They become a singular stake through the heart of this sinner.
Piercing. Rending. Bloody.
Vanquishing this creature of the night who dares to follow his own way.
Christ’s death becomes mine.
The death I deserve.

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Dark Friday

I wrote this piece a few years ago and thought it appropriate to post every year on Dark Friday.

Take Me, Break Me
(a prayer)
by Steve Laube

Take my eyes Lord.

Strike me blind.

* * *

Then heal me Lord
That I may see with Your eyes.

 

Take my hands Lord.
Crush every bone.

* * *

Then heal me Lord
That I may touch with Your tenderness.

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Rumor Control

I was talking with an editor this week who asked me, “How are things going? I hear that your agency is barely making ends meet and that you’ve had to take on other type of work to survive.”

I must admit that I was so startled by this rumor that words nearly failed me.

“Where did you hear that?” I exclaimed.

“Oh it was at a recent writers conference and folks were talking, and your name came up.”

At the risk of sounding defensive, let me set the record straight.

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Marketing vs. Publicity

by Steve Laube

Recent I have run into a common misunderstanding. Some writers use the words “marketing” and “publicity” (or P.R. “public relations”) as synonyms when actually one is a subset of the other.

There are marketing departments that have a publicity division or a marketing department that outsources their publicity. The two go hand in hand and should compliment each other.

The best way I can define it is to say that:

Marketing is all about creating multiple impressions.

This can be through ad placement, in-store displays, banner ads, reviews, contests, etc.

Publicity is all about meeting the author.

This is done through radio and television as well as through all forms of social media.

The difference is that author “feels” publicity because they are involved. They do not “feel” marketing, per se.

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Writers Learn to Wait

Ours is a process industry. Good publishing takes time. Unfortunately time is another word for “waiting.” No one really likes to wait for anything. Our instant society (everything from Twitter to a drive-thru burger) is training us to want things to happen faster. Awhile ago I wrote about how long it takes to get published which gave an honest appraisal of the time involved. Below are some of the things for which a writer must learn to wait.

Waiting for the Agent

We try our best to reply to submissions within 6-8 weeks and are relatively good about that. But if your project passes the first review stage and we are now reviewing your entire manuscript remember that reading a full manuscript is much more demanding than reading a few short proposals.

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Give Thanks to God

http://www.gratisography.com/

There is a verse in scripture which sets out in bold relief the great besetting problem of the human race. It is Romans 1:21: ‘for even though we knew God…we did not give thanks.’ Astonishing! How can we actually know God and not give thanks? Scarcely a day passes in which we are not deluged by at least a hundred instances of God’s goodness to us. Thanksgiving ought to be the most natural of human reflexes, as spontaneous as drawing breath.

Doubtless there are a plethora of reasons why we do not feel thankful. Perhaps business is stressful, or marriage is disappointing, or parenting is unfulfilling, or health is deteriorating, or school is unrewarding. Or maybe we simply take for granted God’s goodness to us.

How important it is, then, to rehearse frequently all that God does for us. Only then will an unending torrent of thanksgiving be unleashed from our hearts. Nowhere is God’s goodness more compellingly set out in His word. Immerse yourself in what follows, luxuriate in the story of God’s grace to you. . . and be thankful!

__________

Who is like the Lord our God? Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who is enthroned above the vault of the earth . . . and who stretches out the heavens like a curtain. How majestic is His name . . . When we consider His heavens, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars which He has ordained, what are we that He should take thought of us?

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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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Who Owns Whom in Publishing?

Updated February 3, 2018 For a comprehensive list check out The Christian Writers Market Guide. Available in print at your favorite retailer or as an online subscription (updated weekly) at www.ChristianWritersMarketGuide.com. Our emphasis in this post is the Christian publishing industry. There are many fine commercial publishers that do not publish …

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