2013 – A Year in Review

by Steve Laube Businessman on a ladder ticking boxes showing opinion terms on grey background What a year it has been. I’m tempted to write that sentence and leave the rest of this page blank. It would be easier than to remember and recite all that has come to pass. But it is a healthy exercise nonetheless.

Agency Business

The biggest news of all was adding another agent to our group. This past Summer we welcomed Dan Balow to our ranks. He is a fabulous addition and is already making his “agenting” mark. Just don’t talk to him about Cheez-its.

Despite some sudden changes in our industry (see below) we continue to secure publishing deals for our clients. The good news for writers is that content is still king. Without great content there would be no commerce.

The forecast continues to be sunny at our Agency.

The Industry

Random House officially merged with Penguin to form Penguin Random House. Most of the infrastructure changes that would affect us have been completed.

The merger of Thomas Nelson with Zondervan to form Harper Collins Christian Publishing (HCCP) has also settled. The biggest change we saw was the full merger of Zondervan fiction with Thomas Nelson fiction. This bodes well for authors within that new group (better team synergy), but the implication is that we lost another major place to shop a new novel.

Summerside Press was shut down by Guideposts. We had some contracts cancelled due to that decision. And as of this writing there has not been a buyer to swoop in and rescue the backlist titles.

B&H Publishing shut down most of their fiction program, retaining properties that tie into their burgeoning film endeavors. As with Summerside we had some contracts cancelled.

Each change was dictated by different circumstances, but the net effect was a loss of about 30 annual new book slots. This creates much more intense competition for the remaining places.

We have seen changes like this before. Maybe not quite as many in as short a period. And the market tends to level out over time. As mentioned above, great writers will still find a place. I truly believe that will never change. It may not be easy, but when has publishing success been “easy?”


We lost some dear family members and friends this year. It is always hard to say goodbye especially to those with whom you have shared so much love.

I was honored to be the MC for the 2013 Christy Awards. It was especially a privilege to be a part of honoring Lee Hough for his Lifetime Achievement Award. So glad we were able to do that before he passed away. Congratulations also to Karen Hancock and Lynn Austin for being inducted into the Christy Award Hall-of-Fame.

It was an honor to be inducted into the Grand Canyon University Hall-of-Fame by their Department of Theology in a ceremony held in February. I still find that to have been a rather surreal experience.

But the highlight of the year was the marriage of our oldest daughter in the Fall. The ceremony was a marvelous worship service, a real blessing. (And now for the obligatory picture of our family.)


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The Anti-Christ-mas Redeemed

by Steve Laube

Ebenezer Scrooge shouted, “What is Christmas to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer….Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”

Not the most merry of sentiments but is illustrative of the unhappy and empty among us. In our American culture we have a backwoods duck hunter being vilified in the media while those same critics give a wink and a pass to a 21 year old pop star whose wiggle and shake made her a finalist for Time magazine’s Person-of-the-Year award. In Africa tribal members are killing each other. In the Middle East civil war and anti-Semitism is woven in the fabric of every day. A dictator in North Korea executes his Uncle. Global hunger. Global economic unrest. Many are clamoring for a legislative solution. The moral fiber of society is unraveling. Everything seems upside down.

It was a similar milieu over two thousand years ago described as “when the fullness of time had come” which set the stage for the advent of Jesus into our world. The Western world was ruled by a self-described benevolent dictator in Rome whose methods for keeping peace were brutal and vicious. The country of Israel was run by a despot who was quickly going insane while his paranoia had him slaughtering family members and dozens of innocents (Matthew 2:16).

Into that morass of godless society a child was born. A story was begun. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And that story is still worth telling.

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Diligence Rewarded

by Steve Laube

The ease of today’s social media communication brings a casual layer to the task of writing. Careful composition is trumped by the need for speed. For most “throw away” emails and posts that is the new normal. But it should never leak into the business of writing, either in craft or in delicate communication.

The other day I received an email query/proposal. There was a very large file attached and the body of the email read, “Here is my book. Please take a look.” No signature line, that was it. At least it rhymed. This was not a friend, a client, or someone I had ever met. But the casual, even flippant, nature of the note all but says, “I’m not serious about the craft or business of writing.”

The best writers are those who take their ideas and their words and run them through a gauntlet of critique and reformation. They pour their words into a garlic press and slice and dice them into bits that can flavor their entire book.

This takes time. This takes hard work. And it is a process that seems endless.

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Three Myths About an Agent’s Acceptance

by Steve Laube

You’ve worked hard. You wrote a great book. You pitched it just right and the literary agent has called you saying they want to represent you and your project. Hooray! But there are some misunderstandings or myths about what happens next.

1.  Your Book Will Soon Be Published

Just because an agent has said yes doesn’t guarantee success. Nor does it speed up the inexorable process. Remember that while the agent will work hard in getting your work in front of the right publishers and deal with any objections or questions that come, it can happen that an idea is rejected by every publisher.

In addition the acquisitions process at a publisher is very process oriented. When I was an acquisitions editor we tried to have a monthly publications board meeting. I was given time to present about eight titles at that meeting. Thus beforehand we had to decide which titles were going to be pitched. Often I would bump an idea to the next meeting because another one took its place. For the author and the agent this means waiting and waiting some more. Other businesses may make their decisions more quickly, but publishing has always worked in this methodical manner. Of course there are exceptions, but usually at the expense of someone else’s project that has now been bumped to the next pub board meeting.

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