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Our Service Philosophy

CONTENT

To help the author develop and create the best book possible. Material that has both commercial appeal and long-term value.

CAREER

To help the author determine the next best step in their writing career. Giving counsel regarding the subtleties of the marketplace as well as the realities of the publishing community.

CONTRACT

To help the author secure the best possible contract. One that partners with the best strategic publisher and one that is mutually beneficial for all parties involved.

Recent Posts

How Can You Manage So Many Clients?

by Steve Laube

I am frequently asked this question. It is perfectly understandable as many agencies carry a sizeable list of clients. A prospective client or even an existing one wonders, “Will this agent or agency have time for me?”

We post a list of our clients on the web site because we are honored to work with so many gifted people. Not every agency makes their client list public. It is neither right nor wrong, it is merely a preference. As of this morning we have nearly 170 clients on our roster.

Proper management of a client base is all about communication and work flow. The best metaphor I’ve been able to use to describe how a literary agency works is “We are like a major airline that is always overbooked but never flies full. But if everyone show up at the gate at the same time, we would be in serious trouble.”

The writing profession is somewhat cyclical. During the proposal and contract stage the agent/author conversations are frequent. But once the deal is set the writer disappears into a cave to write. Then periodically the writer comes out with a question or a situation that needs attention. Later on the editorial, production, and marketing stages can have issues that require an agents attention.

Rarely does much of this happen on the same day. Thus the airline metaphor is apropos. If every client called their agent on the same day it is doubtful that every author would be served properly.

Another consideration when looking at a list of clients it to realize that not every author is what can be termed as “Active.” An “active” author is either writing their book, creating a new proposal, or otherwise engaged in activity that affects their work as an author which I would be representing.

However I have some clients who have retired but there is still work to be done their behalf when issues arise on their older titles. Other clients have passed away. In those situations if there is an issue with the estate and the intellectual property we are still there to handle it. We have clients who take years between projects. We keep these people on our list of clients because they are our clients, but they would not necessarily be considered “active.”

From a workflow standpoint I try my best to respond to each client’s situation as soon as possible. Am I perfect? Hardly. But generally we hope our clients are satisfied with what we can do for them. Each of us in the agency works hard to take care of each situation as they arise. Some days are crazier than others. E-mail is a tremendous tool for taking care of quick questions. The phone is still a powerful tool. (Read “The Barriers to Effective Communication.”)

Ultimately the question is not “can we” but “do we” manage a number of clients. The answer is a celebratory “yes we do!” We will not take on a new client unless we think we can sell their work or help them to achieve their publication goals. A project or an author must be commercially viable otherwise nothing happens and no one is happy. So while our client base may continue to grow it is done with intentionality and purpose.

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The Mystery of the Slush Pile

When you submit a manuscript or query to an agent, you may wonder what happens to it, and what our thought processes are regarding the properties we offer to represent versus those we must respectfully decline. Every agent is different, but you may find learning about my process helpful.

I have a very smart assistant. When she reviews my slush pile submissions, she goes through a winnowing process.

The first submissions she rejects are those that are obviously not a fit for me. These include:

1.) Stream of consciousness submissions. If she can’t figure out what you are talking about, she sends it back. By this we don’t mean that we don’t understand systematic theology. It means that the query letter is incoherent.

2.) Error-ridden letters. Even the best of us can type “here” when we meant to type “hear” but more than one error in a final letter is a red flag that either the author is not well-versed in basic grammar or will turn in careless, sloppy work.

3.) We rarely acknowledge queries sent as an email blast in the cc line to the entire industry. It is a form of spam. Target a select few and then personalize your proposal to each.

4.) Books that aren’t in categories we represent.

Submissions that bypass these four problems, among others, and otherwise show promise are passed on to a reader. The reader looks for factors such as:

1.) Excellent writing.

2.) For fiction, coherent plot.

3.) For nonfiction, whether the intended audience is likely to connect with the topic.

4.) Overall message of book, whether fiction or nonfiction.

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Three Steps to Freedom!

It’s The Most Wonderful/Terrible Time of the Year

It comes every year, and every year we wait for it with a mixture of excitement and dread. No, I’m not talking about taxes.

I’m talking about the award season.

From the ECPA Book of the Year awards to the Christy’s, the Genesis to the RITA, the Golden Heart to the Carol, and all the gazillion contests and awards in-between, online groups, Facebook, Twitter, and more are buzzing with the news of who finaled and who didn’t, who was nominated and who wasn’t. It’s a heady time for those chosen; a difficult and even painful time for those not so blessed.

This year has been especially interesting to me as a number of the books I acquired and edited over the last year or so have garnered several nominations for prestigious awards. I’m delighted for these writers, because I know how hard they’ve worked, and how talented they are. But I know, too, that those not getting happy news have also worked hard, are also talented. And I know that so many of us find ourselves smiling through the ache inside, congratulating our friends, knowing we should be happy for them, but all-too-aware of that nagging “Why not me??” in our gut.

So what’s a writer to do?

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News You Can Use – April 17, 2012

Getting by on a Writer’s Income – Lawrence Block reflects on the challenges of the writing life. An excellent article from someone with a half a century of experience.

Microsoft Word is Dead – Tom Scocca in “Slate” makes a bold claim. I would vehemently disagree from the point-of-view of writers and editors and publishers. But he may be right when it comes to office collaborations and the like.

Mary Poppins Author Regrets Selling Movie Rights to Disney – A story behind the story. What we may have seen as a delight the author saw as a violation. Our family happens to have enjoyed both the movie and the original books.

—– Articles about the Department of Justice Lawsuit —–

One Bad Apple Don’t Spoil…on Second Thought – Bufo Calvin weighs in on the DOJ lawsuit

Agency is Dead, Long Live the New Agency – No, the article is not talking about literary agents despite some of your wishes. Instead Philip Hughes looks carefully at the DOJ lawsuit and asks some great questions.

Amazon E-book Pricing a Thorn in the Flesh – Fascinating look at a publisher that has willfully removed all their books from Amazon’s web site despite the risk of lost sales.

The DOJ Lawsuit Won’t Solve the Big Problem – Emily Bell in the UK sees the issue a little differently.

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