One Agent’s Rearview Mirror

Since I was nineteen years old (yes, I was that young once, smart aleck), I’ve set goals every January instead of making resolutions. I set one-year, three-year, five-year, and lifetime goals in six categories: spiritual life, physical/health, intellectual/educational, marriage/family, financial/household, and professional (writing, speaking, agenting).

Yes, I am a tad obsessive-compulsive.

Believe it or not, it’s fun for me. And it’s even more fun to do a six-month and end-of-year review of what goals I achieved, which ones I partly achieved, and which I totally tanked on.

This habit makes this blog post a lot easier, as I look back on 2018 and reflect on my first full year as a big, important, high-powered literary agent. I’ll leave it to others to reflect on the industry at large, but here are some of the points I will take with me from 2018 into 2019:

  1. Change is constant.

My status as the “fresh face” at The Steve Laube Agency bit the dust when our friend and coworker Dan Balow moved on in October to devote himself more fully to his work at Gilead Publishing and Thomas Umstattd joined the agency soon thereafter. That’s closest to home, of course, but a whole bunch of my friends and acquaintances who work in publishing changed positions and locations. Worthy Publishers was acquired by Hachette/FaithWords, and the CBA (Christian Booksellers’ Association) announced key high-level personnel departures even as the Munce Group announced the formation of a new trade association: Christian Retail Association, Inc. It’s a good thing Steve Laube has a head for all this stuff because I can’t even keep track of where I put the pair of scissors.

  1. Books are in demand.

I know that many authors and publishers bewail the state of things today—and there’s no denying that writing and publishing are very different than they were just a few years ago—but this is still a great time to be a writer and an agent. Christian publishers are still publishing great books, and they’re always looking for original and well-written content. Yes, platform is important and will remain so; but everyone I know in this industry gets all goose-pimply at unique ideas, distinctive voices, and breathtaking prose. And they’re still willing to consider debut authors. None of us really knows for sure where everything is going to land in the near future, but we know that books will continue to be written, and published, and read.

  1. Being an agent is fun.

I know I’m just getting started, but I was honored and thrilled to finalize more than twenty book deals with and for my clients in 2018—and eight of those were by debut authors. I hope and plan for those numbers to grow, of course; but more important than the numbers is the exceptional quality of those clients and their upcoming books—both fiction and nonfiction. I was honored to be featured as an agent in Writer’s Digest and Today’s Christian Living. I had a marvelous time presenting and meeting with writers, editors, and fellow agents at eleven writers conferences in 2018, from New England to Florida to Oregon, and gained a lot of valuable information myself from those events. And speaking of valuable information, I continue to learn from and lean on Steve Laube, Tamela Hancock Murray, Thomas Umstattd, and our erstwhile colleague, Dan Balow, who are the finest and smartest people I could ever hope to steal ideas and glory from.

  1. Life is a joy.

Of the twenty-two personal and professional goals I set at the beginning of 2018, I met (fully or partly) fourteen of them. (The ones I didn’t meet all had a price tag attached, so…..) I count that as a win. And, though my beloved mother-in-law went to heaven and my daughter and son-in-law moved (with three of our grandchildren) to California, so much good stuff still came my way in 2018 in addition to my goals. My wife, the lovely Robin, and I saw Hamilton live on stage, took in two live Shakespeare plays (Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and enjoyed Alison Krauss live in concert. I gave blood six times and exercised more than a hundred times. I wrote a new book (Closer to God) and republished another (The Bone Box). And the lovely Robin and I enjoyed three trips out west to visit with our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren.

It’s been a whirlwind 525,600 minutes, but many daylights, some sunsets, a few midnights, countless cups of coffee, laughter, tears, very little strife, and (as Hamlet would say), “words, words, words.”


27 Responses to One Agent’s Rearview Mirror

  1. Avatar
    L. K. Simonds January 9, 2019 at 5:06 am #

    Good morning, Bob, an d happy 2019!

    Congratulations on measuring your year in much more meaningful ways than coffee spoons, to quote Eliot. (You’re a lover of poems, as I recall.)

    I wish you even more fulfillment in 2019. We all appreciate your wit, your observations, and your energy.



    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler January 9, 2019 at 7:45 am #

      Thank you! I am a lover of poetry. Not so much an Eliot fan, but any allusion to him prompts an assumption that the person making the allusion is so much smarter than me. So you’ve got that going for you.

  2. Avatar
    Roberta Sarver January 9, 2019 at 5:47 am #

    Bob, I like the way you called them goals, instead of resolutions. And–congratulations on achieving so many!

    We appreciate all the helpful blog posts you write. Your sense of humor and compassion for the fledgling among us, make your writing easy to absorb.

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler January 9, 2019 at 7:47 am #

      Thank you, Roberta. I find goals far more helpful than resolutions. Goals give me, well, a goal, whereas resolutions seem too general and elusive to me. More like the difference between a “to-do” and a “wish.”

  3. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser January 9, 2019 at 5:55 am #

    Tried driving down a highway
    once by looking in my mirror.
    If I could get the lines to stay
    in place, there’d be no error
    in my forward motion fleet;
    I’d win the beer on wager
    and that ale would be so sweet
    and moral vict’ry oh so major!
    But actions reversed, senses human
    at eighty miles an hour,
    I left the safety of road-bitumen
    and hit a cell-phone tower.
    With cancer now, and life’s frayed thread,
    I’ll just eyeball that road ahead.

    • Avatar
      Linda Riggs Mayfield January 9, 2019 at 7:42 am #

      Oh, Andrew. Amazing and so to-the-point in an entirely fresh way, as usual. I often look to the biblical model for finding balance between looking forward and back, and that matches your poetic conclusion pretty well. Looking back is best done while standing still, as motivation for movement and faith. Moving forward while looking back sets you up for unexpected collisions. Blessings to you.

      • Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser January 9, 2019 at 10:04 am #

        Linda, thank you! 🙂

        And looking back is definitely best done while stationary.

        Or one could take the example of Lot’s wife, updated by Satchel Paige:

        Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler January 9, 2019 at 7:51 am #

      Andrew, may the road ahead be for you, in the words of the prophet Bruce:

      Something is shining
      Like gold but better
      Rumours of glory

  4. Avatar
    Lori Hatcher January 9, 2019 at 6:15 am #

    When I reviewed my 2018 goals, you were directly involved in the realization of one of my hardest ones – to find a publisher for my book. Thank you for succeeding in so many of your goals, because they directly impact many of ours. May God bless us all in the new year as we seek to be and do all God intends for us.

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler January 9, 2019 at 7:53 am #

      Lori, I suspect a lot of people include me in their goals: “Make Bob behave,” “figure out what’s wrong with Bob,” that sort of thing. I’m as thrilled as I can be to see your dreams coming true.

  5. Avatar
    Jaime January 9, 2019 at 6:23 am #

    Thank you for your enthusiasm for life. It’s contagious, and makes me excited for the coming year – no matter what comes!

  6. Avatar
    Callie Daruk January 9, 2019 at 7:16 am #

    Hi Bob, I enjoyed reading your 2018 reflections and as always I am inspired. I pray God will draw you even closer to His heart this year and give you many more words. 😉

  7. Avatar
    Glenda January 9, 2019 at 7:39 am #

    Hi, Bob-

    Whirlwind-rearview mirror-year, indeed!

    Congratulations on your accomplishments.

    In your Hither and Yon blog, what Shakespeare character were you portraying? (And do you recommend velvet hats and tights for the modern man? Laughing.)

    The miles also yawn between my hubby and my grown sons and three grandbabies. Even so, life is still a joy! And will be exceedingly joyful when I can read via modern technology to our little loves your new book, Don’t Close Your Eyes-A Silly Bedtime story. 🙂

    As an aspiring author it’s refreshing to know that in spite of constant change books are still in demand and that there are literary agents like you who delight in representing newbies to the industry.

    Do you and the lovely Robin share a favorite Alison Krauss song?

    Many thanks for sharing, “words, words. words.”

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler January 9, 2019 at 8:01 am #

      I’m so glad you saw my Hither and Yon post! 🙂 I was dressed as the bard himself, on “genre night” at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. It’s always such a fun time. And ya know, the tights are no fun but the heavy velvet tunic and breeches are surprisingly comfortable and cool.

      Thanks for the mention of Don’t Close Your Eyes! I would love to hear how you and your “little loves” like it.

      As for Alison Kraus, I like her bluesy stuff more than the country/bluegrass stuff. My wife loves “I Give You to His Heart.”

  8. Avatar
    Kay DiBianca January 9, 2019 at 8:49 am #

    Bob, I have loved reading your blog posts. You entertain and inspire us all.

    You had one post in 2018 entitled “A Literary Agent’s Prayer” that inspired me to write my own Author’s Prayer and keep it close. It reminds me daily of my purpose in writing, and I thank you for giving me that gift.

    Hope you achieve all your goals in 2019.

  9. Avatar
    Deb January 9, 2019 at 8:50 am #

    Great review of your 2018, Bob. I’m happy to enjoy some of your clients. Here’s to a mutually profitable 2019!

  10. Avatar
    Joey Rudder January 9, 2019 at 11:04 am #

    It may sound strange (at least until I explain), but thank you. Thank you for donating blood six times. It will be fourteen years ago this month that my husband and I rushed back to the hospital when I began hemorrhaging a week after our daughter was born. I will never forget the fear, the possibility of not being here to watch her grow up.

    She will be fourteen soon. I have thousands of memories stashed in my heart with more coming every day, and I thank God for every one of them.

    So again, to you, Bob, and everyone who donates blood – a sincere and heartfelt “thank you” and God bless you for the powerful difference you’re making.

  11. Avatar
    claire o'sullivan January 9, 2019 at 11:29 am #

    Hi Bob

    What a great way to follow your goals. Admitdally, I did that as well, but have given up on making these lists a time back.

    Good motivation to start this again. And, you have achieved much!

  12. Avatar
    Shirlee Abbott January 9, 2019 at 11:38 am #

    The guy who tracks 1,3, 5 and lifetime goals in SIX categories can’t keep track of his scissors? They must be hiding under all those goals.

    I’m of the One-Word ilk. I work very hard to condense my many goals into a single word. That word hangs from a kitchen cupboard knob–keeps it from getting lost in the clutter.

  13. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson January 9, 2019 at 11:41 am #

    I’m looking forward to conquering my goals and challenges in 2019. Congratulations on your successes, Bob!

  14. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D January 9, 2019 at 3:04 pm #

    Bob, thanks for the always-enjoyable blog posting! Have a blessed New Year!

  15. Avatar
    Kim Henson January 9, 2019 at 7:41 pm #

    I loved reading this. It makes me hopeful for 2019.

  16. Avatar
    Tisha Martin January 10, 2019 at 12:48 pm #

    What a successful year! I love to read yearly reviews because seeing what someone else has done encourages and motivates. Congratulations to you! Happy 2019, and may it be more rewarding than last year.

  17. Avatar
    Brennan S. McPherson January 10, 2019 at 6:38 pm #

    I’m glad to see that it seems you’ve had a good year, despite some significant losses and difficulties. I’m praying your 2019 will be even more blessed and fulfilling. Thanks for your posts! They always make me smile. In Christ…

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