Tag s | Agent

Welcome to Bob Hostetler

I am excited to welcome Bob Hostetler as the newest agent with The Steve Laube Agency! Please give him a warm welcome.

I’ve known Bob for years. First as a reader of his books, then as a fellow faculty member at various writers conferences, then as his literary agent. I’m guessing he lost his mind because he agreed to join us.

His resume is incredible. A thirty-year veteran of the Christian publishing industry, his fifty books (both fiction and non-fiction) have sold millions of copies. Titles include Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (among a dozen he has co-authored with Josh McDowell) and The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional. His writing has twice earned Christian publishing’s Gold Medallion award, four Ohio Associated Press awards for best broadcast writing, a Selah “Book of the Year” award, and an Amy Foundation Award. (Take a look at a list of his books here.)

He will begin blogging on Wednesdays. In addition he will take on the role as Executive Editor of The Christian Writers Institute which we launched last Fall. His expertise as a teacher of writers makes him perfectly suited to add to what we have to offer there.

Bob served for eleven years as the founding pastor of Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio. He is a frequent speaker at churches, retreats, and conferences around the world. He and his wife, Robin, recently celebrated their fortieth anniversary.

I’ve been looking for ways to broaden the services our agency provides to current and potential clients. By adding Bob to the agency, we can expand our role in helping to maximize our client’s sales and extend their reach in multiple markets. Bob’s strengths are his intimate understanding of the writing and editing process, knowing what it takes to be successful in the current publishing environment, and how all the pieces of the publishing “puzzle” fit together. He helps us to fulfill our mission to help change the world, word by word.

Bob Hostetler with the 2017 Selah Book of the Year Award. Along with his agent (and still boss) Steve Laube and his editor Pamela Clements (Worthy Publishing).

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A is for Agent

by Steve Laube

I thought it might be fun to write a series that addresses some of the basic terms that define our industry. The perfect place to start, of course, is the letter “A.” And even better to start with the word “Agent.”

If you are a writer, you’ve got it easy. When you say you are a writer your audience lights up because they know what that means. (Their perception is that you sit around all day thinking profound thoughts. And that you are rich.)

If you are an editor, you got it sort of easy. Your audience knows you work with words and all you do is sit around and read all day. In my editorial days I was often told, “I’d love to have your job.”

But tell someone you are an agent and there is a blink and a pause. If they don’t know the publishing industry they think “insurance agent” or “real estate agent” or “secret agent.” Or if they follow sports or entertainment they think “sleazy liar who makes deals and talks on the phone all day.” I resent people thinking that I talk on the phone all day. (Hah!)

Even at a writers conference I always have someone ask, “What is it that you do?”

Deal Maker

An agent works on commission. Fifteen percent of the money earned in a contract they have sold to a publisher on behalf of a writer. I will be bold to say that any prospective agent who asks you for money up front is someone you should stay away from.

This is the category that most people focus on when defining the role of the agent. But it is only one small facet of what we do. Two months ago I published a list of the activities our agency had recently done as a way to help dispel the myth that we are only deal makers. It is how we earn our living but only a small part of our work.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a crucial part of what we do. Our contract negotiations are critical to the long-term health of the publishing/author relationship. Last Fall I taught a course at a conference called “Landmines in Your Book Contract.” Each time I read one from an “offending” contract there were gasps in the room. There is a good reason to have a professional review any book contract you are ready to sign.

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Changes or Opportunities?

What are you doing to counter and grow from the ongoing changes in the marketing of books?

I don’t look at the changes as something to counter, but opportunities to reach an ever-increasing audience with excellent books. I am becoming more savvy about social media, because effective marketing by publishers is becoming more reliant on this new phenomena. I am working more directly with marketing people than in the past.

As you know from reading this blog and keeping up  with industry news, few authors have the luxury today of holing up at home, churning out books, without ever interacting with fans. Today, fans expect to find their favorite authors on the Internet. For example, authors should consider becoming active on Twitter. By active, I mean offer a status update at least once or twice a day.

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This Offer Does Not Expire

 

During a conference many authors ask , “How long do I have to submit my manuscript to you?” In other words, “Is there a time limit?”

The simple answer is, “The offer to submit to me does not expire.”

Why? Because I like to find new authors and develop, nurture, and encourage their work. My goal is to create a career for that writer. This philosophy is one of the reasons we are so choosey as an agency. We invest in an author to land that first deal, with an eye to winning future contracts.

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The Tell-All You Can’t Live Without

Karen Ball

Okay, okay, I admit it, the title of this blog is hyperbolic. Kind of. But let me explain why it’s not that far off the mark to say you really can’t—or at the very least, shouldn’t–live without it. Also, let me explain why I’m addressing something that Tamela addressed a mere 3 months ago.

So far this week, I’ve had no fewer than seven conversations with writers, agents, and editors, all of which hit on the same topic: finding out important information long after they should have. The conversations covered a broad range of information:

An author calling to say s/he was going to miss a deadline—a week before the deadline. A client receiving an extension on a deadline from an editor A publishing house moving a pub date without letting the author know A book arriving with a cover that was completely different from what the author approved

My response in every case was utterly profound:

“Are you KIDDING me??”

So though Tamela addressed the following in March, let’s talk about it again. Because friends, this is important stuff. (And because you know who will address it next: Mr. Steve. And he won’t be as nice as Tamela and I are! <insert evil grin here>)

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What Is the Agent Doing While I Wait?

You submit a great manuscript to an agent. Then you wait. And wait. And wait.

What could she possibly be doing?

Let’s say your baby jumped most of the hurdles and is near the top of the slush pile. (See the previous post on the Mystery of the Slush Pile) Why can’t the agent make up her mind? Might I offer a few ideas:

1.) Market changes can mean a shift in priorities. An agent may receive an email at five in the afternoon on any given Friday that opens up a new market or closes an old one. The agent may need to reevaluate and reassess her strategy. This does not mean agents chase the market. What it does mean is that, for example, if markets are trending away from a certain type of novel (Remember hen lit?) the agent may realize she’d better focus on the writers she already has rather than risking taking on a new client writing that type of book, no matter how wonderful. Or if a huge market opens up, the agent might focus on that category for awhile, shunting your wonderful retelling of Genesis to the side, if only temporarily.

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A Few Things Your Agent Needs to Know

You have an agent, but want to be low maintenance. You value your agent’s time and hesitate to fill her in-box with lots of chatty emails or tie him up on the phone all day. I’m sure your agent appreciates you for being considerate.

Still, writing is a serious profession and a business. Therefore some personal events and occasions in your life are critical for your agent to know:

Happy Event

If you are the bride or groom, the parent of the bride or groom, expecting a new life in your family, are taking a month-long vacation to Hawaii, or have another major happy event planned, let us know so we will be aware that you might not be around for stretch of time.

Death of an Immediate Family Member

If you don’t tell us about a death that affects you in a major way, we won’t understand your emotional state. Also, consider that if you are responsible for executing a will and disposing of an estate, it’s best to let your agent know you are involved in time-consuming, heart-wrenching work that could affect your productivity.

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What if You Get a Book Deal on Your Own and Then Want an Agent?

One of our readers asked this via the green “Ask us a question” button.

What happens if you get a book contract before you have an agent? What if, by some miracle, an editor sees your work and wants to publish it? (1) would having a publisher interested in my work make an agent much more likely to represent me, and (2) would it be appropriate to try to find an agent at that point (when a publisher says it wants to publish you)? My fear is that querying an agent and receiving a response could take several months, but I’d need to accept a potential contract with a book publisher right away (I would think). Is it appropriate to ask the editor to speak with an agent on your behalf to speed the process?

This is a great topic but there are a few questions within the question. Let me try to break it down.

Many times have had authors approach us with contracts in hand and seeking representation (happened just last week). Of course this will get an agent’s attention immediately. But there are caveats:

a)      Who is the publisher? There is a big difference between a major company and your local independent publisher. Not all publishers are created equal (see the Preditors & Editors warnings).

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