Friday Five: Steve Laube

Steve Laube is respected, longtime veteran of the Christian publishing industry, having served as a bookstore owner, an acquisitions editor for Bethany House, and in his current role, as a literary agent. Few professionals understand books and publishing like Steve Laube. On a personal level, my agent, Tamela Hancock Murray serves with the Steve Laube Agency. I have enjoyed my interactions with Steve and especially enjoy reading his observations on books and publishing. I highly recommend you subscribe to his blog

Steve was kind enough to stop by and chat for today’s Friday Five:

How did you get started in Christian Publishing? Have you always had a love of books or was it something that came later in life? 

I began as a part time shelf-duster at a Christian bookstore a few blocks from college campus. That later turned into full time, then management, etc. In 1992 I became an acquisitions editor for Bethany House and worked with them for 11 years. In 2003 I chose to become an agent. Or as some would say, “You fell into the Dark Side.”

I’ve always been a voracious reader. I still remember a required class on reading we had to take in Jr. High. We were to read 8 books (or something like that number) during the course and write a report. I read over 100.

You’ve been on almost all “sides” of Christian publishing, from bookstore owner to publisher to agent. Do you think this gives you a unique perspective on the industry? 

It does bring a different view. The bookstore experience puts me in the mindset of the consumer who is looking for a book on a topic or for entertainment.

The publisher side allows me to understand the economics of publishing as well as the entire production process.

As an agent I get to experience the inside story of all publisher, both their trials and their triumphs. I also am privileged to work with an extremely diverse group of writers. You might call it eclectic.

Traditional publishers are increasingly under attack as an outdated relic of the past. But you’ve argued that they’re role is still necessary as curators of content. Why? 

It goes without saying that the ultimate curator, or chooser, of content is the end user, the reader. I’ve never meant to say that the agent or the publisher knows best. But at the same time, as a consumer, I want to only buy what’s best or what is well done. And choosing at random from an Internet search is a recipe for disappointment. Instead if I see that a book is published by a particular publisher I can assume, in most cases, that the project has been vetted at a number of levels before it got my attention as a consumer.

The world is divided between those who have seen and read a pile of unsolicited proposals and those who haven’t. It is astounding the amount of material we are sent that is simply not ready. Too often the writer sends it to us without learning the craft first. But there is nothing to prevent that same person to turn it into an e-book next week and it is added to the plethora of titles available to the public.

What do you see as the future for Christian publishing? 

A loaded question!

I am a reasonable optimist. I see a bright future. God is raising up a new generation of thinkers and writers who have a breathtaking grasp on scriptures and culture and how we are to live with the Gospel at the center of our lives. This is the future. The creators of great content. And publishers of all types are desperate for that brilliant group of writers.

Meanwhile the industry itself is carefully weighing the impact of technology (e-books, social media, etc) on publishing as a business. It is not an easy task.

The irony is that there have been many shifts in the publishing industry in the last 31 years I’ve been working in it. Each shift is perceived as a major one. And the e-book revolution is no different.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring Christian author, what would that be?

Prepare yourself. Work at the craft. Make your writing and insight so astounding that it brings and exclamatory gasp from the Agent when he reads it for the first time. I guarantee that each time I’ve had that “gasp” that project was sold to a publisher very quickly.

Go to our web site and see the guidelines. Investigate our list of resources (books, web sites, writers conferences, book coaches, etc.) on the site as well.