G is for Great

by Steve Laube

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“There are a lot of good manuscripts out there. What we want are those which are great.” I’ve said this may times but thought I should elaborate. Please note the following applies mostly to non-fiction projects.

When it comes to the non-fiction books that attract the major publishers I believe the author must have at least two of three “great” things:

Great Concept
Great Writing
Great Platform

Let’s look at the various combinations to see how this plays out.

Platform + Writing

These books are well written by a highly visible author. They get published but have modest sales. It may be that the concept or idea doesn’t resonate with the readers. It may be the author’s constituents are the only ones who buy a copy. I may be the topic is too academic for a commercial audience. But if you are great writer with a great platform, there is no question you will find a publisher who partner with you.

Platform + Concept

These books are often celebrity driven. The publisher and the author brain-storm for the right package. Or the author’s material is based on a great title from a sermon series or a particularly popular talk. Unfortunately the writing is weak for whatever reason. They converted a sermon series without much editing. Or they hired a ghost-writer who did their best under the time constraints they are put under. You get the idea. And you may have bought a book like this. Famous author with a great book title…but then you tried to read it and it felt forced or manufactured. (Disclaimer: That is not to say that all Platform+Concept books are poorly written. My attempt here is highlight great writing versus good.)

Concept + Writing

This is where most writers land. They aren’t famous, yet. They have a great concept and are an amazing writer. The combination can overcome a lack of platform in the right circumstances. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. We’ve frequently sold unpublished authors to a major publisher because the book idea is tremendous and the writing is stunning. (Our agency has dozens of fiction and non-fiction clients whose first book was sold by our agents.) And that should be an encouragement to anyone who is working on their first book. It is not easy but it can, and still does, happen.

Platform + Concept + Writing

There are those magical books where all three elements come together and create a bestseller that outsells even the wildest projections. Can you name a couple that, in your estimation, fit all three criteria?

Your Turn

Is there a broad stroke area that is missing in this overview?
Is this a helpful way to think about platform vs. no-platform?

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Dan Balow Joins The Steve Laube Agency

by Steve Laube

I am very excited to announce that Dan Balow has joined our agency as the Director of Publishing Development and Literary Agent. This gives us four members of our team, me, Tamela Hancock Murray, Karen Ball, and Dan.

I’ve been looking for ways to increase the services our agency provides to current and potential clients. I have known Dan for 15 years and by adding him to our agency we can expand our role in helping to maximize our client’s sales, work with ministries and organizations to develop their publishing efforts, and expand our reach internationally. Dan’s strengths are his understanding of book marketing, what it takes to be successful in the current publishing environment and how all the pieces of the publishing “puzzle” fit together. Our team has expertise in all facets of the industry, writer, bookseller, editor, marketer, agent, executive management, and publisher.

Dan is a 30 year veteran of the Christian publishing industry. He was the director of marketing for Tyndale House Publishers working with authors Francine Rivers, James Dobson, Josh McDowell, Charles Colson and many others.

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Fun Fridays – July 19, 2013

This is a fun cover of a popular song. The unfortunate thing is that the chorus is one of those that sticks in your head…all day. But to make it worse the lyrics of the chorus could be the anthem song for either publishers or bookstores. Listen yourself to see if you agree (you can skip the part where the arranger begins talking at the end):

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News You Can Use – July 16, 2013

Yesterday I posted on the issue of “Foreign Rights.” Talk about a clunker of a topic! One quarter of the normal readership thought it worthwhile to click through and read. Fascinating analytics. So let me ask those who read this “News” section, what topics would you like to see addressed in the future?

JK Rowling Snookered a Lot of Editors – She submitted her latest novel under a pen name. This article interviews some of the editors who said, “No thanks.” It goes to show the power of a brand name. And shows that an “okay” manuscript and story won’t break through if you are unknown.

Taglines Hook Your Reader – Mary Connealy writes a great article that every writer needs to read.

Prediction on E-book Sales – Ebooks will outsell paper books in the year 2017. Agree or Disagree. See the data at the link.

53 Years of To Kill a Mockingbird – Enjoy a celebration of a classic.

As Long as Reading Survives, so will Bookshops – Philip Hensher explores an interesting topic.

56 Unique Lorem Ipsum Generators – Completely silly stuff. But very fun if you need to use sample text to test out a graphic design.

Prediction on E-book Sales – Ebooks will outsell paper books in the year 2017. Agree or Disagree. See the data at the link.

53 Years of To Kill a Mockingbird – Enjoy a celebration of a classic.

As Long as Reading Survives, so will Bookshops – Philip Hensher explores an interesting topic.

56 Unique Lorem Ipsum Generators – Completely silly stuff. But very fun if you need to use sample text to test out a graphic design.

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F is for Foreign Rights

by Steve Laube

Publishing is a global concern. The new Penguin Random House (co-owned by Bertlesmann from Germany and Pearson from the UK) is the largest publisher in the world. The fourth largest publisher is based in the Netherlands. (See this link for a list of the top 50 largest publishers worldwide.) There are thousands of publishers outside the U.S. most of which publish in their native language. Therefore, in most contracts, the foreign rights or translation rights are negotiated.

Some publishers have a dedicated rights division which handles the licensing of your book into other languages. Your contract defines how any income is to be split between you and your publisher. (It is usually a 50/50 split.) Often we have negotiated with the publisher who is doing the English language edition to also manage foreign language licensed. However our agency has also handled the licensing for book published in Korean, Dutch, German, and Slovakian. It is quite fun to look on our shelves and find our client’s books also printed in Russian, Polish, Czechoslovakian, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

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Fun Fridays – July 12, 2013

Watch this 4 minute video and then save it. You may need to show it to someone in 20 years who is unsure.

“How to Read a Book” – a delightful reminder of why we work so hard to do what we do in this business.

This video is the work of Hilary Commer, and she made it for her Intro to Visual Media class at Abilene Christian University.


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News You Can Use – July 9, 2013

Does Your Title Pass the “Radio Test” – This means, if your book title or web site address is read out loud on the radio, will the listener know how to spell it when they go to find it? For example, my last name is spelled Laube and pronounced Lobby. That does not pass the “radio test.” So I now own and point it to just in case someone misspells my name.

The Deception of Bestseller Lists – A great article by Dianna Booher.

Everything You Need to Know About the Great E-book Price War – How the antitrust lawsuit by the Department of Justice against Apple and the biggest book publishers will affect our industry.

A fun must-read poem for all writers “If You Give a Writer a Pen” by Laura Kolar

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Summerside Press Shuts Down

by Steve Laube

“Another one bites the dust.” This past week Guideposts announced they were discontinuing all new acquisitions of titles for both their Summerside Press (fiction) and  Guideposts Books (non-fiction) trade lines. To have a complete picture of what this means we first have to understand that there are FIVE different book publishing programs under Guideposts. Two of them are being discontinued. So make sure your story is clear if you pass along this information.

Summerside Press (to be discontinued) – this is the CBA fiction line acquired by Guideposts in 2010. It includes the wildly successful “Love Finds You” line of titles (over 40 of them in the backlist). Guideposts non-fiction trade (to be discontinued) – this would be represented by titles like Halfway to Each Other by Susan Pohlman and I Dare You to Change! By Bill Cornelius. Guideposts Books (unchanged) – Their perennial bestselling books like Daily Guideposts and Mornings with Jesus will continue. Ideals Publications (unchanged) – This, along with their children’s books, will continue unchanged. Direct-to-Consumer (unchanged) – These books are created and sold via subscription direct to consumers. Occasionally these titles made their way to the trade, but not often. We have a number of clients who write for these lines and many of the books don’t even have a bar code because they are not intended for sale in the public marketplace.

They also have their famous magazines (Guideposts and Angels on Earth) which are still healthy and widely circulated.

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