Tag s | Agents

Who and What I’m Looking For As an Agent (Bob Hostetler)

Updated 1/21/2021

It’s hard to believe since I look so young, but I’ve been an agent with The Steve Laube Agency for three-and-a-half years now. In those years, I’ve learned pretty much all there is to know about writing, publishing, agenting, and lying to myself and others. So you might want to take with a grain of salt the things I’m about to write as I do my best to offer an answer to the frequent question, “What are you 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 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 am interested in:

Fiction: contemporary, historical, mystery, romance, suspense, thriller

Nonfiction: business and leadership, Christian living, gift books, 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, middle grade, young adult (YA)

Nonfiction: academic, autobiography/biography, Bible studies, cookbooks, doctrinal issues, memoir, pastoral helps, poetry, sermons, theology

Investment

I’m not interested in “one-and-done” authors. If you have only 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 who 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, Priscilla Shirer, or Francine Rivers. They are all wonderful writers, but I’m looking for ideas and writing so fresh 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.

__________

Please see the “Guidelines” section of our site and follow that information meticulously before submitting a proposal to Bob Hostetler.

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Are You High Maintenance?

by Steve Laube

Last week I was asked to define what is meant when an author is deemed “high maintenance” by an agent or a publisher. The more I thought about this the more I realized how difficult it is to quantify. Any attempt to do so is fraught with potential misunderstanding because most people are looking for specific rules to follow.

Normally “high maintenance” is a description of someone who is difficult to work with or is constantly in need of attention. It can be anyone from a “diva” to a “rookie.” The best way to express the issue is in the following word picture:

When you contract with an agent or a publisher you are granted a large measure of “Good Will” in the form of a bag of gold coins. You are free to spend these coins however you wish during the course of the business relationship. The cover design is completely wrong? Spend some coins. The marketing plan appears weak. Spend some coins. And as time goes by and positive things happen you receive more gold coins for your bag.

However, many authors make the mistake of spending their entire bag of coins the first time something goes wrong. And then the next time they need a favor or a special dispensation there isn’t any “Good Will” left.

I think there are three areas where these relationships can break down.

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Three Questions About Agents

In meeting with writers on the cusp of their careers or flush with new success, we find that three big questions come to the forefront. Today, Tamela shares her answers:

How do I find a literary agent?

1)      First and foremost, visit the Agency web sites to see which ones are actively seeking the type of work you write.

2)      Talk to your agented friends to learn about their agents. Referrals are a big part of our business.

3)      If time and finances allow, attend a conference or meeting where your preferred agent will be appearing and meet the agent.

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Where Is My Money?

Before I became a literary agent I had no idea how much energy this profession spent being a “collections agent.” Recently someone asked us the following questions (use the green button to the right to ask your question!):

What do you do, as an agent, when a publisher does not pay advances on royalties on time as per their legal contract?

What if a publisher is consistently late (months) saying they have cash flow problems and will pay when they can? Shouldn’t authors be able to count on getting paid the amount and on the date stated in their contract?

Is this common and is there anything that can be done or said regarding what seems to be a breach of contract?

This is an excellent series of questions. The full non-answer is “It depends.” Generally publishers are very good about making the payments according to contracted schedules. The above situation is much more dire and is a good reason to have an agent who know who to talk to inside the publishing house. There are ways to approach the situation that gets results, just remember, “Don’t Burn a Bridge.”

However, there are a few possible reasons that authors should keep in mind before getting impatient with a tardy paycheck.

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The Editorial Process

It is important to understand the process through which a book takes under the umbrella called “The Edit.” I meet many first timers who think it is just a one-time pass over their words and that is all that will ever happen. And many who self-publish think that hiring a high school English teacher to check for grammar is enough of an edit.

There are four major stages to the Editorial Process. Unfortunately they are called by various names depending on which publisher you are working with, which can create confusion. I will try to list the various terms but keep them under the four categories.

Rewrites / Revisions/Substantive Edit

These can happen multiple times. You could get input from your agent or an editor who suggests you rewrite or revise those sample chapters of the full manuscript. Last year I suggest that one of my non-fiction clients cut the book in half and change its focus. We sold this first time author. But the writer had to do a lot of work to get it ready for the proposal stage.

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The Stages of Editorial Grief

Nearly every writer will tell you they have experienced the proverbial “red pen” treatment from their editor. The reactions to this experience can follow the well-known stages of grief popularized by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

Skip Denial, I’m Angry!

There is no denying that the edits have arrived. And for the author who was not expecting a hard-nosed edit, they can transition from “shocked-angry” to “furious-angry” to “rage.”

And then they call their agent.

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Never Burn a Bridge!

The sale of Thomas Nelson to HarperCollins and last week’s sale of Heartsong to Harlequin brought to mind a critical piece of advice:

Never Burn a Bridge!

Ours is a small industry and both editors and authors move around with regularity. If you are in a business relationship and let your frustration boil into anger and ignite into rage…and let that go at someone in the publishing company, you may end up burning the bridge. And that person who you vented on might someday become the head of an entire publishing company.

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How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

How much time does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail side of the equation. The biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification. But book publishing is a process business.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers the diversity can be quite extreme.

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Why I’m Not Mysterious

I don’t believe in being mysterious, especially as an agent. Since I used to write books for publication, I know what it’s like to put your career in the hands of others. As a writer, I wouldn’t want to send off my precious work and then hear no updates or …

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Four Myths about Agents

I was amused when I recently received a note from an author who had decided I’m a human rather than an infallible goddess. Not sure if I should be glad or disappointed! Since many authors don’t interact with agents, let me dispel a few myths about us: 1)  Myth: Authors …

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