Agency

Publishers Are From Mercury, Authors are From Pluto

Next time someone tells you that Christianity is not as valid as science, just remind them that not many years ago, Pluto was assumed to be a planet, but in 2006 was determined not to be one, but instead was a “dwarf planet”, of which there a several dozen in our solar system alone.

If you took a test in grade school and answered, “How many planets are there in our solar system” with the number “eight” and were marked incorrect and the grade from that test prevented you from attending college, you have grounds for a lawsuit against the scientific community.  (so says my attorney Rich Suethemall)

Ten years ago, Pluto was a planet and Jesus Christ was the Son of God who came to save us from our sin.  Today, Pluto is not a planet and Jesus is still the same. So tell me, which is more reliable, science or our Christian faith?

For the record, I answered “nine” on the grade school test about how many planets orbited our sun.  So, I was admitted to college under false pretenses. Thankfully the statute of limitations on recalling diplomas has passed.

Of course, I titled this blog post to get your attention, with credit to John Gray and his Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars book from many years ago.  My point is that publishers and authors are usually not on the same planet either. (DISCLAIMER: Placing authors on a now-defunct planet was for effect only. My attorney did a legal reading of this post and recommended I make sure that was clear.)

More often than not, authors (especially never-before published authors) are writing books on subjects that publishers are not interested in publishing.  Of course, book publishing is not a science, but a mix of science and art, which makes publishers a moving target, or orbiting planet, as far as authors are concerned.

Publishers have publishing strategies (science), but if they see a proposal their intuition says will sell (art), they will deviate from their strategy. Their heart might trump their head.

Authors, especially new authors, will write from their heart (art), crafting a manuscript based on something that is important to them, or inspired by something in their lives. Because most new authors are writing from the perspective of what they want to communicate and not from a study of market trends, authors become planets in their own trajectory.

So, how do these two planets eventually get into a closer orbit?  More often than not they do not find each other.  To prove this point, note that a couple years ago, the number of self-published titles began to outnumber the titles published by traditional publishers.

Literary agents want to sell books to publishers. So, we listen to publishers and evaluate potential new authors through the perspective of what we know of publishers’ preferences.  If publishers are not looking to buy a certain type of book and you present that same type of book that has been a passion of yours, don’t be offended when they don’t see things the way you do.  Agents are the literary equivalent to a dating service, trying to match up authors and publishers, but even eHarmonycom isn’t 100% successful.

Most authors, whether they are published or not-yet-published, rarely consider the issue of what publishers are looking for when they sit down to write.

Imagine this…you are asked to give a speech to a student assembly at your local high school. Excited about the opportunity, you set off to craft a speech that you want to deliver.  Teens these days have no respect for authority, drugs and alcohol are bad for them, sex is intended for marriage, work hard so you can get into a good college, stop putting toilet paper on the trees in my neighborhood, etc.  You plan a one-hour speech.

Upon arriving at the school, prepared to set everyone straight once and for all, you discover that the assembly is 25 minutes long and the purpose was to encourage the students following the tragic death of a popular teacher.

If only you had asked on what planet the students were living, you probably would have been more effective.

Knowing your audience is the first rule of effective communication. If you never consider what publishers are looking for, don’t be surprised or offended if you are rejected.

Agents strive to see the world through the eyes of publishers, because we want to match up authors and publishers. When we decline to represent an author, it is because we can’t envision a publisher who is looking for what you wrote.

Authors should pay attention to what readers, agents and publishers want rather than focusing only on what you want to say. All three groups want to publish books and since publishers haven’t mastered space travel yet, it is the responsibility of authors to travel to a planet a little closer to Mercury.

Agents? We live on a starship and travel to every planet on a regular route. Each of us has a phaser (set to stun) and a pet Tribble to keep us company.

 

 

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Happy 10th Anniversary!

by Steve Laube It is hard to believe that this weekend marks ten years since I made the decision to open The Steve Laube Agency in 2004. I can honestly say it has been a blessing to have the opportunity to serve the industry and our authors in this capacity. It …

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It Takes a Committee

One well-known and frustrating fact about seeing a book finally accepted is the looooooong process. Trust me, literary agents would like to see the process move faster, too. Believe it or not, the fact that at most large publishers, a proposal must go through several rounds of review before a …

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Why an In-the-Know Agent is Your Best Partner

Even in the tightest market, new opportunities develop. Not only can authors keep up with these opportunities by being well-connected themselves, but this is just one part of your career where partnering with a great agent is key. Why? Because editors don’t always put out a call to every writers’ …

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Don’t Just Do It

I don’t like the word “just”. Don’t get me wrong, “just” is a fine word, especially when used in a triple-word space in Scrabble.  It has all sorts of good uses and meanings…even used to fill time when we are thinking, along with the other great words and phrases of …

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An Atypical Time in an Agent’s Life

I have enjoyed reading various “typical day” posts lately on other blogs, so I thought instead of sharing a typical day, I’d share an atypical month: Sad News for Us My father-in-law, a Baptist minister, passed away at age 89 after two strokes. While our family is sad to lose …

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Bring the Books

“Bring the books, especially the parchments,” is a sentence in 2 Timothy 4:13 that has teased readers for 2,000 years. What books did the Apostle Paul want to read while waiting for trial? Theology? History? How-to? (Maybe a little escape reading? Pun intended.)

Another writer chimed in a while ago by saying “Of making many books there is no end.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) And if we read the statistics he wasn’t kidding. 300,000+ published in the United States alone last year.

And yet there is an allure to the stories of great novelists and a fascination in the brilliance of deep thinkers. It is what drew me to the book industry in the first place having been a lifelong reader and a burgeoning collector of my own library.

I can safely say that the allure and fascination remains unabated. I’ve had and continue to have the honor and privilege of working with some of the finest minds and talented writers in our industry. The photo above is from my office showing every book represented by our agency. Hundreds of amazing books by amazing authors.

Meanwhile I am still searching for the next great story, the next great concept, the next great writer. So, to answer the question, “What are you looking for?” I will attempt to clarify a few things.

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Still Wanted: Writing that Sings!

Anyone who has jumped into the waters of agenting knows they’ll be asked one question, over and over and over:  “What are you looking for?” Well, now that I’ve got a couple of years of this amazing work under my belt, let me build on what I said when I started. Back then, I said I was looking, first and foremost, for books that glorify God, then for writing that sings, that speaks to the heart and spirit, that uplifts and challenges. Well, that’s all the same! But there are a few clarifications I want to make.  First, here’s the not so good news:

What I’m Not Looking For

Children’s & Middle Grade Books: As much as I enjoy reading these books (that’s one of the only perks to never having had children—I get all the kid’s books!), I am not representing them. It’s not that I don’t see the need. It’s simply that I’m not experienced with these kinds of books. My work lo, these many years in publishing, has been with adult books. Now, I have worked with Young Adult fiction and nonfiction, but I already have some great clients in that category and am not, at present, looking for more.

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2013 – A Year in Review

by Steve Laube What a year it has been. I’m tempted to write that sentence and leave the rest of this page blank. It would be easier than to remember and recite all that has come to pass. But it is a healthy exercise nonetheless.

Agency Business

The biggest news of all was adding another agent to our group. This past Summer we welcomed Dan Balow to our ranks. He is a fabulous addition and is already making his “agenting” mark. Just don’t talk to him about Cheez-its.

Despite some sudden changes in our industry (see below) we continue to secure publishing deals for our clients. The good news for writers is that content is still king. Without great content there would be no commerce.

The forecast continues to be sunny at our Agency.

The Industry

Random House officially merged with Penguin to form Penguin Random House. Most of the infrastructure changes that would affect us have been completed.

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Three Myths About an Agent’s Acceptance

by Steve Laube

You’ve worked hard. You wrote a great book. You pitched it just right and the literary agent has called you saying they want to represent you and your project. Hooray! But there are some misunderstandings or myths about what happens next.

1.  Your Book Will Soon Be Published

Just because an agent has said yes doesn’t guarantee success. Nor does it speed up the inexorable process. Remember that while the agent will work hard in getting your work in front of the right publishers and deal with any objections or questions that come, it can happen that an idea is rejected by every publisher.

In addition the acquisitions process at a publisher is very process oriented. When I was an acquisitions editor we tried to have a monthly publications board meeting. I was given time to present about eight titles at that meeting. Thus beforehand we had to decide which titles were going to be pitched. Often I would bump an idea to the next meeting because another one took its place. For the author and the agent this means waiting and waiting some more. Other businesses may make their decisions more quickly, but publishing has always worked in this methodical manner. Of course there are exceptions, but usually at the expense of someone else’s project that has now been bumped to the next pub board meeting.

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