What I am Looking For (Dan Balow)

(Updated 1/2/2016)

Every now and then it is good for an agent to update what they are looking for in proposals from authors we consider representing.

Since my primary editor connections are with publishers of Christian-themed books, I need to start there, but can expand to the general market in certain circumstances.

I am looking for authors of non-fiction works for adults, but will consider non-fiction for younger groups once in a while. I will also expand to consider compelling content for children.

I do not represent authors of fiction.

For personal enjoyment and illumination, I read certain Christian Living books, but also non-Christian biographies, history and business books. I know the market reads wider than that…not to mention that the majority of buyers are not boomer males like me. Most people in publishing are stretched beyond their personal preferences anyway.

Since agents need to view the world through the eyes of publishers, we ask questions of potential author/clients that are consistent with publisher requirements. With that in mind, other than compelling writing, here are three other things I am looking for in authors:

  • Credibility: You need to be perceived as qualified to write on the topic of your book. Theology books are written by respected theologians, apologetics books written by respected apologists, nutrition and exercise books by nutritionists and exercise gurus, etc. Even if you are an excellent writer, you need to have the credentials accompanying whatever you might create.
  • Focus: Pick a category to write and stick to it. Very few authors can navigate a wide variety of categories successfully and if they do, they are usually successful in one before trying the other. Just because you can do a variety doesn’t mean you should.
  • Marketing: Great writing still counts, but you won’t get far without a great start to personal marketing. Lack of an author platform will be a problem down the line, so get started now if you haven’t already.

Finally, should you be published by a traditional publisher, the first book you wrote may not be the first one published. Agent and author agendas are not always publisher agendas at a particular point in time.

Just like you, the agents with The Steve Laube Agency have gotten to this point in our lives by exercising our gifts, dealing with disappointment and learning to trust God more and more each day. I consistently pray that God grant me the wisdom to make wise decisions and serve authors well.


18 Responses to What I am Looking For (Dan Balow)

  1. Avatar
    Lee Carver January 13, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    Dan, I wrote the autobiography of our lives as missionaries in the Brazilian Amazon and self-published it after writing three novels. Of these, the first was self-published and the other two were trad pubs AFTER the autobiography. I tried to write “Flying for Jesus” with all the drama, action, human appeal, setting involvement, and dynamic phraseology of a novel. People tell me it’s a page-turner. A few ask if it’s all true. Being limited to the facts made the book more difficult to write. I couldn’t just make up a scene or blend characters. Since then, I put three months of my life into editing, formatting, and uploading another Brazilian missionary couple’s work, “Married to Brazil”. After working both sides of the fence, I’m firmly back in novel territory, but the adventure was worthwhile. Besides–and I know agents hate to hear it–God told me to write those books.

    • Dan Balow
      Dan Balow January 13, 2015 at 8:49 am #

      I think it is important for authors to write a variety for their own creative development. But when it comes to pitching an agent, we need to pin down something more narrow. Very, very few authors can successfully navigate between categories for traditional publishers.

  2. Avatar
    Heathet January 13, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    I am brand new to the writing and publishing scene. I was curios as to what it takes and how to set up an author platform?

    • Dan Balow
      Dan Balow January 13, 2015 at 8:52 am #

      There’s a number of posts on the subject if you search this site. However, I will be doing a series of three posts on February 3, 10 and 17 on the subject and offering a downloadable document on Author Platform at the conclusion.

      So, keep reading and hopefully the February posts I offer will be helpful.

      • Avatar
        Stacey Zink January 13, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

        I look forward to reading these posts. Thanks, Dan.

  3. Avatar
    JeanneTakenaka January 13, 2015 at 8:49 am #

    Dan, it’s good to hear what your likes are as far as what you prefer to represent. I also appreciate your input as to what a writer needs to have ready/in process when seeking representation.

    Thanks for the reminder that we as writers (like you as an agent) are exercising our gifts (and continuing to learn how to do so). And that trusting God is an essential aspect of the process. 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Susan Mary Malone January 13, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    Thanks, Dan, for the update! I work with a lot of Christian writers, and help to connect them with the right agents, so it’s always wonderful to know what you’re really seeking!
    Thank You!

  5. Avatar
    Jennifer Zarifeh Major January 13, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    I am SO GLAD you mentioned credibility!!
    I read a books, years ago, in which the two MC’s supposedly grew up in Hawaii, and thus spoke fluent Hawaiian.
    But there wasn’t a single word, other than the standard ‘aloha’ and ‘mahala’.
    Including a scene where “they argued in fluent Hawaiian”. THAT was the descriptor of the scene. How am I supposed to get into a book in which the author didn’t bother to at least do some research?

    Anyone who watched Hawaii 5-0 could’ve done that.

    And yes, I was waiting for a solid “Book ’em, Danno.”

    My work is set in Arizona and New Mexico in the 1860’s, among the Navajo, before and after The Long Walk and their imprisonment in Fort Sumner.

    My Navajo advisor has told me on many occasions if I don’t get every single detail exactly right, I’m toast, word will travel fast, and not a single Navajo will read my work.

    At that, I said ,”So, no pressure?”
    To which he replied, “Nope, none at all.”

  6. Avatar
    Marci Seither January 13, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    Thanks Dan for the update. It is always good to know what agents are looking for and what they consider to be important when helping an author in their career beyond one book deal.

  7. Avatar
    Robert Winkler Burke January 15, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    Hi Dan, I write for the future of Christianity.

    This involves learning how to be un-hypnotized, rather like seeing “The Music Man” as a story of how the folk of the story prided themselves on being skeptical, but actually were hoodwinked by the traveling salesmen.

    Today, Evangelical leaders teach “milk” doctrine through methodology of a) showmanship, b) stage hypnotism, c) misdirection and d) suggestion.

    Think of the song “Ya Got Trouble,” in the Music Man. First the man creates a show of himself (a), then hypnotizes the listeners with his persona (b), then rails against playing pool (c – misdirection) and then suggest starting a marching band (d – suggestion).

    In Evangelical land, the suggestion is self-serving to the clerisy.

    What is missing in all this? Meat teachings that redound unto Christ-in-You.

    All of this is about 25 years into the future, and word by word that is the change that will come… the change will be to see what has made us blind, and what we have missed by being blind.

  8. Avatar
    Dr. Joe Judkins October 24, 2015 at 7:07 am #

    I am very concerned that people around the world believe that Christians worship three gods. My latest article is: Christians Worship One God and its link is: http://www.worldgospelschool.com/christians-worship-one-God
    I have been writing for years but no one knows of my work. I feel like an island sometimes but I know that God will use these writings somewhere. Our local newspaper published all of the article which many people were surprised. I hope you like it.

  9. Avatar
    Shadia Hrichi January 2, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

    Hi Dan. I was pleased to see your updated post in my inbox this morning. I’d love to send you my proposal for a series of Bible studies I am working on called “Behind the Seen,” inspired by the story of Hagar. I have an MA in Biblical/Theological Studies from Western Seminary (as well another MA and BA) and am working on developing my platform. I self-published my first Bible study in 2014, which is endorsed by Pastor/Author Chip Ingram. Are you interested in looking at Bible studies? If so, I am ready to send a proposal and 3 sample chapters. Alternatively, I can send a query letter, if you prefer. For His Kingdom, Shadia

  10. Avatar
    Casey July 27, 2016 at 9:56 am #


    I am a Mental Health Nurse Practitioner who has a Master’s in Biomedical Sciences. I have a self-help book that discusses facing fears with working through three different books of the Bible. It has a twist with Psychology and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy while also representing the Bible.

    Any recommendations for this Self-Help Author?

    Is that something this Agency would be interested in? If not, where do I go?

    As a nurse, I advocate-Perhaps as an agent, you could advocate as well?

  11. Avatar
    Rebekah Love Dorris December 2, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

    Wow. You need to ask Mr. Laube to link to these spam comments some Friday when he’s short on funnies. They’re hysterical! God bless 🙂

    PS – This content is being very informative to this topic. I am seeing this writer as a magnificent contribution to technology. I tell everyone I love writing.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube December 2, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

      Someone got through our spam filters. They have all been removed now.
      We apologize for the mess.

  12. Avatar
    Steve Ebner December 7, 2016 at 5:02 pm #


    Thank you for this informative blog. As I begin the submission process for my book it seems like walking through a slough when I am not familiar with the path. Since my book does not fit squarely into the typical evangelical fare, nor does it align with a particular denomination, how can I determine if an agent is open to submissions that do not fit neatly into these theological boxes? I note that your list of what you looking for does not mention any particular theological slant. Should I assume that those who do not specifically state that they are looking for a particular perspective are open to a broader range of submission?

  13. Avatar
    terminarze 2017 December 19, 2016 at 4:55 am #

    hi!,I really like your writing very a lot! percentage we keep in touch extra about your article
    on AOL? I require a specialist on this space to solve my problem.
    Maybe that’s you! Having a look ahead to look you.

  14. Avatar
    Cathy Alves Davis January 16, 2017 at 12:30 am #

    Hello, Dan,

    I have been researching agents for awhile now. During my search, your name has come up several times. As I looked again this evening I found the above article that you wrote. I look at things like that as a sign from God. It is late but I felt as though I should send you this message now.

    My name is Cathy Alves Davis and I self-published my book, Myrcles. Myrcles has been receiving consistent 5 star reviews on Amazon. However, it needs to get out there to a much broader audience.

    I know that you like non-fiction Christian Books. My book is a memoir of what happened to me some nineteen years ago, when some of the most brilliant doctors in the country gave me little hope of living. But they underestimated the power of faith and what God can do.

    I never aspired to be an author; God directed me to write Myrcles. In 1998, I miraculously survived a life-threatening stage III aggressive breast cancer. The tumor in my left breast was the size of a navel orange. My prognosis was grim. But as I lay inside a CT machine to determine the extent of the cancer, a miracle happened: God spoke to me just as He had done when I was a young child suffering from asthma. He allowed me to know that I would survive, and that one day I would go on to write a book of hope and inspiration that would help countless others. I was the first Complete Clinical Response in my research protocol at Lombardi Cancer Research Center at Georgetown University Hospital. I received the miracle that God promised. I knew God had spared my life for a reason, and that I was chosen to share the gift of His message in a book that would help countless others: He had given me a mission. In my book Myrcles, I tell my story of faith.

    According to breastcancer.org, one of every eight women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime in our country alone. Add to that all the people surrounding a breast cancer patient who are frightened and need hope, such as family and friends. The readership potential is unlimited. If every woman who receives a breast cancer diagnosis had the opportunity to hear my story, how many would find the comfort and strength needed to stay strong during their fight against this disease.

    I hope you will find my story of interest and you will see its potential in the marketplace.

    Faith and Blessings,

    Cathy Alves Davis

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