Who and What I’m Looking For as an Agent

I love books. I have loved reading them since “Dick and Jane,” Dr. Seuss, and My Side of the Mountain. I have loved writing them since the publication of my first book in 1992 (yes, I am that old). And now, as an agent with The Steve Laube Agency, I get to work with authors and represent them and their books to publishers. “So,” you might ask, “what are you looking for?” Oh, okay, since you twisted my arm, here’s what I’m looking for:

Influence

Aspiring writers often imagine, “Once I have a book published, people will listen to me.” That’s exactly backwards. Like every publisher and editor I know, I am looking for people who are already having an impact. They are writing blog posts that a lot of people read, share, and subscribe to. They are connecting and engaging with large numbers of people on social media. They are speaking at events large and small, far and wide. They are not waiting for readers, listeners, and followers to come to them, they are already engaging with people about their genre and topic.

Inspiration

My primary expertise as a writer and speaker has been the Christian market. So, as an agent, I will focus my efforts in representing books, both fiction and nonfiction, for the Christian market (though if a proposal has crossover appeal, the resources are available to me to take it to the general market). In particular, I will be interested in:

Fiction: contemporary, historical, mystery, romance, suspense, thriller. Selected children’s books.

Nonfiction: Nearly all topics written from a Christian perspective – business and leadership, contemporary issues and current events, Christian living, devotionals, humor, marriage and family, parenting, prayer, spiritual growth, teens/young adult, women’s nonfiction.

As a rule, I will not be looking at:

Fiction: fantasy, horror, science fiction, speculative fiction (those are Steve’s strange affliction).

Nonfiction: cookbooks and  poetry.

Investment

I’m not interested in “one-and-done” authors. If you have just one book in you, then I wish you well, but I am not the right person to help you get it published. I’m looking for writers who have already begun investing in the lifelong task of writing what matters and finding fresh and innovative ways to convey an idea and reach an audience. I’m looking for writers who are teachable, who study their craft, and are willing to accept criticism and correction. I’m looking for writers who love words, phrases, and sentences. I’m looking for writers who are reading widely in their genre, who invite thorough critique, and will never use the awareness and appreciation of their strengths as an excuse not to work on their weaknesses. I’m looking for writers who are attending writers’ conferences to educate themselves, network with others, and get better and better at proposals and pitches.

Originality

You thought I was going to insert another “I” word here, right? Tough. Because I am not looking for predictability. I am not looking for the next C. S. Lewis, Max Lucado, Beth Moore, or Francine Rivers. They are all wonderful writers, but I’m looking for ideas and writing so fresh that it could never be confused with another writer. I want to see book proposals that surprise me and delight me. I want to represent writers who can flat write. Who can transport me. And who will do it again and again.

 

56 Responses to Who and What I’m Looking For as an Agent

  1. Janine Rosche July 19, 2017 at 3:36 am #

    Well, shoot. I was hoping to work with another Buckeye. You had me up until point one, but I can’t even seem to influence my four young children at this point in time! That said, anyone you will represent is certainly going to be talented, hardworking and inspiring! They will be ones to watch! God bless!

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 5:59 am #

      Fantastic, Janine. Keep working on those kids, that’s a tough nut to crack. Not that your kids are nuts. Maybe I should just say “thanks for the comment.”

  2. Sharon Cowen July 19, 2017 at 5:19 am #

    Influence? Eighth graders. I taught eighth graders. Does that count for a retired person just entering the writing wilderness? I am on facebook. I’m working on a “Come to the garden…” blog. Surely there’s a burning bush somewhere and a staff or better still, a talking stick.

    • Janine Rosche July 19, 2017 at 5:39 am #

      Sharon, I tried finding your blog but couldn’t. Is it breaking rules to ask you to share a link to it? I’d love to read your work.

      • sharon cowen July 19, 2017 at 6:00 am #

        Thanks, Janine. I tried to use Bluehost, and my antique tech skills crashed. I am transferring my domain name to WordPress. They said yesterday, it will take about 72 hours. So hopefully by this weekend you can find me at sharoncowen.com. Don’t give up, Janine. And don’t discount the influence you are having on your four young children. What better use of time?

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 6:04 am #

      Sharon, anyone who has taught eighth graders knows how to command attention and should be a whiz at building an audience. As for me, I think I and my fellow seventh- or eighth-grade friends caused the loss of three Sunday school teachers in a year.

      • Sharon Cowen July 19, 2017 at 6:30 am #

        Thanks for the encouraging words, Bob. Were you the young boy who bowled marbles down the church aisle during the middle of the offertory or sermon?

        • Bob Hostetler
          Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 6:31 am #

          Wasn’t me. Honest. Though I have been known to crawl under the pews and tie shoestrings together. But if you quote me, I’ll deny that, too.

          • Susan Gregory July 19, 2017 at 7:05 am #

            This says a lot about you…
            With you as an agent, life will always be full of the unexpected.

          • Sharon Cowen July 19, 2017 at 7:12 am #

            I think your “brother from another mother” lives next door. 🙂

  3. Bryan Mitchell July 19, 2017 at 5:28 am #

    Extremely fair to want someone with an established platform. I hope you find great authors to represent.

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 6:08 am #

      Thank you for the comment, Bryan. I’m looking for writers who “get it,” who are learning and growing and gaining influence themselves rather than waiting for someone else to do that for them. It needn’t be “established” as much as “growing” and “resonating.”

  4. Donna July 19, 2017 at 5:32 am #

    I’m wondering aloud…why would a writer you described need you?

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 6:13 am #

      So many reasons, Donna. In today’s publishing world, writer and agent can form a team that strategizes and molds and improves a writer’s skills, exposure, and influence exponentially and allows a writer to focus his or her efforts in areas where they’re strongest while others see to areas that might otherwise be distractions–or, worse, minefields. These are just some of the reasons why even the famous and bestselling authors and speakers have agents.

      • Brennan McPherson July 19, 2017 at 6:29 am #

        You’re too quick, Bob! Beat me to the punch.

        • Bob Hostetler
          Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 6:32 am #

          Well, yes, but to your reply I can say only, “What he said.”

    • Brennan McPherson July 19, 2017 at 6:24 am #

      To negotiate contracts, mediate relationships, garner greater support for projects, have a wider range of publishers to pitch to, give advice on career direction, help juggle multiple projects + proposals to give the writer more margin to market and write. Wouldn’t you rather have someone praising your project to publishers and editors, then to have to do it yourself? There’s an enormous amount of work that goes into publication that tends to seem quite ambiguous and hard to quantify.

      I have a traditionally published novel that released last year, nearly 2,000 email subscribers, have been featured on The 700 Club, and have received endorsements from NYT bestselling authors, and I’ve never felt like I needed an agent more. I’ve also had quite a hard time finding an agent, even with a great editor who’s dedicated to working on my projects (I negotiated the first deal with the publisher on my own because I have a business degree and experience with contracts–and I learned that it’s better to have someone else do that). Publishing is just a tough journey. And it doesn’t get any easier.

      I hope that doesn’t sound too harsh, because I thought the same as you until I felt the pressure of all the work that’s demanded when you’re actively publishing. Agents are worth it. Doesn’t matter where you are in the journey, or how “successful” you seem. And this is coming from someone who’s perfectly comfortable with independent publishing. It’s difficult to go it alone.

      • Bob Hostetler
        Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 6:32 am #

        What he said.

      • Janine Rosche July 19, 2017 at 6:35 am #

        Brennan or Bob,
        What are the best resources/ideas for building your platform? I’ve considered self-publishing my first book to try to gain readers and build my platform. I always see people who offer free ebooks for subscribing to their sites. Any suggestions are appreciated!

        • Bob Hostetler
          Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 6:37 am #

          Janine, there are good reasons to self-publish but that ain’t one. I recommend Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform, as a good starting point. And if you haven’t started strategically attending writers conferences, I strongly urge you to do that.

          • Janine Rosche July 19, 2017 at 6:42 am #

            I’m attending ACFW in September for the first time. I asked for meetings with Tamela and Steve, although I don’t know what I’ll get. Will you be offering meeting times there?

            • Bob Hostetler
              Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 8:47 am #

              Janine, alas and alack, I won’t be at ACFW this year, but Tamela and Steve are the best.

          • Brennan McPherson July 19, 2017 at 6:57 am #

            What Bob said!

            Also, free books don’t work like they used to. To build a group of people who are actively consuming what you’re offering, you have to figure out what you want to offer on a consistent basis. Is that a blog? Professional speaking? What’s your expertise or primary interest, and why are you qualified to talk about it? Whatever you decide, do start somewhere, because many times we have to start walking to figure out where we want to go.

            Then, figure out how you’re going to get people to commit to listening to you long-term. Whether that’s by liking a FB page, subscribing to email notifications (I recommend MailChimp, which is free for the first 2000 subs), or something else. Build a way to consistently reach out TO the people you’ve engaged with. Make sure to keep them engaged long-term.

          • Janine Rosche July 21, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

            I got Michael Hyatt’s Platform in the mail today. You should get commission. Although, I’ll let you have a percentage of the sales from my first book if you play your cards right. (See what I did there?)

  5. Jackie Layton July 19, 2017 at 6:16 am #

    Hi Bob,

    I’m sorry I missed your introduction last week, but it’s good to meet you now.
    So glad to hear you’re part of the Steve Laube Agency.

    Thanks for sharing what you’re looking for. It sounds like your authors will be blessed.

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 6:18 am #

      Oh, Jackie, you want to scroll back through this blog to last week’s post. It was a tough interview with me. I’m still reeling from it.

  6. Karen Saari July 19, 2017 at 6:17 am #

    You’ve just described me to a T! Well, almost. But My Sid of the Mountain was my first favorite book. I’ve had several favorites since then, but it was the first.

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 6:20 am #

      Karen, yes, yes, yes! I wanted to BE Sam! I still do. And that book made me a lifetime Jean George fan.

  7. Michele Israel Harper July 19, 2017 at 6:44 am #

    Congratulations, Bob! I am so excited for you! What a wonderful opportunity.

  8. Carol Ashby July 19, 2017 at 7:09 am #

    Bob, my biggest claim to platform fame is being consistently in the top 4 on Google for crime and punishment in the Roman Empire, which has given me an international following in 78 countries. I’m at number 1 today for treating Roman indigestion. My highest aspiration with my fiction is to achieve the spiritual impact on individual readers of Francine Rivers but not her sales numbers. (We scientists tend to be realists, although God can do anything if it suits His purpose.) I think it’s a safe bet that I would never attract your attention as an agent, but I am really looking forward to what I’ll learn from your blog posts.

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 8:50 am #

      Carol, “#1 for treating Roman indigestion.” What a hoot! Those Romans are lucky to have you. And safe bets are still a gamble…

  9. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 19, 2017 at 8:26 am #

    Hmmm…I have a large blog following, but unfortunately what makes it large is my writing about my imminent death with honesty and hopefully a bit of humour.

    Can’t say it’s quite the platform I would have chosen, but on the other hand I would not trade the perspective and learning for anything, including restoration of health.

    There’s a book to come out of this; perhaps two, if I get at least a short remission.

    At this point, therefore, I’m probably a one-and-done, and attending writers’ conferences simply isn’t on unless ACFW would like to hold one at my house. It’s a nice house, really, great views and ambience, but there are a LOT of dogs. We rescue unwanted Pit Bulls, and they have pride of place and first refusal at mealtime.

    But I might send you a proposal anyway, just for the fun of hoping to be the one gloriously wayward exception to a well-groomed stable.

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 8:52 am #

      Andrew, your keen sense of humor shines through in your comment. Thanks for the honesty and humor, both.

  10. Kristi Woods July 19, 2017 at 8:31 am #

    Loved your interview last week, Bob. Even though I’m new as well, here’s a hearty “welcome”!
    And this post? This gal is soaking up every ounce of it.
    Platform building? In process.
    Manuscripts? Several swirling, two skipping over to the hopper now.
    Genre? Check and double check.

    It’s right there – the dream to acquire an agent and see several manuscripts in print, fulfilling kingdom work through words. I’m curious, did you also have a dream to work with an agent? My teens and I discussed my hope, what seems to be a God-given one, just last week. They might think it wonky – I don’t know. They simply offered a benign teenaged facial scowl in return. Normal. But the dream’s pull proves strong, and I’m certain it will become reality one day.

    Thanks for opening the door, allowing us to take a peek, Bob. It’s always good to know what’s running through an agent’s mind.

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 8:53 am #

      Oh, Kristi. You don’t want to know what runs through this agent’s mind. But I love your comment. You sound like my kind of person. And your teens like my kids.

      • Robin E. Mason July 19, 2017 at 9:55 am #

        as opposed to what runs through an author’s mind??? talk about a black hole! bwahahahahah

  11. Robin E. Mason July 19, 2017 at 9:20 am #

    first line of my first blog as an author, “I’ve been thrown in the deep end. Of a deep ocean. In a tidal wave. And all I want to do is write my stories.” (entitled Drowning, of course) that was three years ago.
    my blog has grown and i have 3 books published (Indie) and a new series underway (#1 releases next month)

    I enjoyed the tone of your post and would enjoy the chance to work with you – what are your submission guidelines?

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 9:55 am #

      Robin, there is a link at the top of this page: “Guidelines.” Thanks for asking.

  12. Craig Hardee July 19, 2017 at 11:05 am #

    It’s great to see you become an agent, Bob. Does that mean that you’ll represent my one and only poetry cookbook? 🙂

  13. Melissa Henderson July 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    Good info to know! 🙂 Almost finished writing my first Christian fiction novel.

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

      Congratulations, Melissa. That is an accomplishment in and of itself.

  14. Sonja Anderson July 19, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

    Thanks for your helpful post! As a children’s author with two British-published novels, the line “select children’s books” jumped out at me.

    Any chance you could expand on that? Thanks! (In the Christian market, this often seems to mean that the agent will publish children’s books by an author they already represent in the adult market. Say that’s not so?)

    Hopeful in Seattle!

  15. Bob Hostetler
    Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

    Sonja, thanks for your comment. No, that is not the only circumstance in which I would consider a children’s book. As challenging as it is to sell a book these days, children’s books are even more so. Basically, the word “select” means that everything else I wrote in the post above about influence and inspiration and surprise and delight, etc., is even truer than true for children’s books.

  16. Mary Elizabeth Brown July 19, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

    For 40 years I have been keeping a file of story ideas and a number of them have outlines, first chapters and an ending. Five years ago I was influenced by friends and acquaintances to consider writing books because they liked my small blog posts. I went to my first conference at OCW and was convinced I was crazy to even imagine anyone would read my writing. I have no platform of followers so why should I even try? But my stories are begging to be told so I am working on bringing them into text, admittedly slowly because I have a day job and I am trying to learn this new craft.

    Once in awhile the darkness descends to tell me it is a waste of time but when the light shines, I am flying on top of the world. I am working on small articles for Chicken Soup for the Soul and magazines as I try to draw courage to submit and experience being rejected. It sounds like the writing life is one of constant rejection that you are not to take personally. Why would anyone do this? I guess we are all a bit insane or perhaps gamblers to work hard just to be ignored, waiting for that one break through.

    Your list echoed some of the same things I have heard before. This time I could click off: attending conferences, learning the craft, able to take criticism (I want to do my best), hobnobbing with other writers, having a blog (it needs reworking), commitment to multiple books and writing, writing, writing…. Wow, I’ve made a little progress. I’ve had one speaking engagement. No one is beating down the door for my perspective on life.

    The biggest discovery for me has been the need to go on with life and my relationship with God because writing without His input is just not worth it. I have discovered truths about myself and God as I write with Him. So in that sense, writing is valuable to me even if no one else thinks so. Growing with God in this new venture is worth the work, the waiting, the rejection and the not knowing if our words will ever see the light of publication.

    I plan on putting you list on my office wall for encouragement and perspective.

    Scribe for His Kingdom

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler July 19, 2017 at 2:18 pm #

      Mary, you are exactly right! It is a mistake to see a byline or a book as the goal! It’s what happens in ourselves and in our readers, whether it is growth in patience or joy in obscurity or the thrill of writing the just-so word or the tear-inducing scene, all of which can be had with or without an agent or a book contract. And readers who span the globe and say that my devotion touched them or my blog comment meant something? Wow. We do God, ourselves, our work, and our readers a disservice when we think it doesn’t matter unless it’s a book or a bestseller. I bless you for that reminder.

  17. CJ Myerly July 19, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

    I’m looking forward to what you bring to this agency. I’ve been following this blog for nearly two years. As an aspiring author, I hope to fit all those criteria. Starting a blog has been huge for me.

    I can’t wait to hear more from you.

  18. David Bullock July 26, 2017 at 7:54 am #

    I would love working with you Bob. I appreciate your friendship. Meeting you at the Colorado “Write His Answer” Conference was a day that helped begin a new direction in my life as, not only a pastor, but an author as well. I was born to write, and you helped inspire me to do that. As you know, I have just completed my first fictional novel and would love to share it with you!

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  20. Melanie McGehee October 28, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

    My best friend challenged me last week to begin sending submissions out into the world. A good children’s book warms my soul and ignites my thoughts. I want to share that with boys and girls and moms and dads when they read about the truths and the mysteries of God. I want to make memories. I’ve written a series loosely based on a catechism for children. Sound interesting … at all?

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