Interview with Steve Laube, part III

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Mick: Anything you see on the horizon as far as Christian literary fiction is concerned?

Steve: Most editors would love to see more “literary” fiction. However we all know that unless readers vote with their pocketbook the marketing gurus will say, “I told you it wouldn’t sell.” Everyone would love to have a GILEAD or a PEACE LIKE A RIVER in their catalog, but the reality is that the majority of readers are looking for escape and entertainment in their reading. Thus the more commercial type of fiction remains popular.

Mick: Argh! It’s like torture! But I guess if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat. Maybe one solution is to resist the impulse to go exclusively one way or the other into literary or commercial. Go for a blend, like many writers are now doing in ABA.

Okay, a reader asked about which genres you think are hottest now. Chick-lit has peaked, fantasy/sci-fi seems to be moving well, a bit darker suspense also seems to be breaking out a bit with Eric Wilson, Dekker, Peretti, etc. What are you seeing?

Steve: Chick-lit has NOT peaked, especially in CBA. In CBA it has only just begun. This year you will see at least a dozen new titles under this genre (“Watch for an interview soon with Siri Mitchell, author of Kissing Adrian coming from Harvest House in July” —ed). Most are not chick-lit per se, but mom-lit where the main character is married. Eliminates the whole single/sex scene from the formula. But even in ABA the category remains strong and will forever. The best have floated to the top and the rest have fallen by the wayside. The same will happen in CBA. But the genre “hip-lit” as one editor calls it, or “womens fiction with an attitude” (what I call it), is here to stay.

Sci-fi is NOT moving well. That is why you only see three, maybe four publishers doing it. The market has not been voting strong enough (“I.e. spending $ on it.” —ed). Fantasy is getting a boost, it’s sci-fi that is suffering. Name a new Christian sci-fi novel in the last 6-9 months….Hard to answer, isn’t it? SOUL TRACKER is Bill Myers’ latest with Zondervan, came out in September. Kathy Tyers’ last is SHIVERING WORLD with Bethany. I acquired it before I left the company two years ago.

Dark suspense is the hottest of the three mentioned. Dekker has hit that target perfectly: an x-files sort of spookiness to his stories. Some with a sci-fi or even fantasy twist. He is hard to classify, which is a good thing. Peretti’s newest, MONSTER, arrived on my desk today. I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing what he has done this time. It has been years since THE OATH was published.

There is interest in sci-fi. Just not enough to convince publishers to continue. When something sells only around 10,000 copies and then dies a publisher is hard pressed to do more. I repeat the mantra. VOTE WITH YOUR POCKETBOOK. If you like a novel, buy it. Then more like it will be published.

Mick: I don’t have money for books. I haven’t bought a book since 1995 when I couldn’t find anyone in my classic literature class who’d share. Even then it was a used copy. I’m what you’d consider a publishing leech. I only read free books from friends, the library, or review copies. How about a really nice letter to the acquiring editor’s boss? Of course, besides buying copies, you could help market your favorite books by recommending them to all the people in your different networks. I do that a lot. You could also think of inventive ways to promote your favorite authors (Kelli Standish is a genius at this). Whatever the book concerns, hook into that subcategory by offering the more influential folks a free copy. There’s also viral marketing through the web, raving reviews at Amazon and BN.com, and requesting it at every bookstore you go into.

Of course, none of us have time for this, but the way I see it now, I realize that if I liked a book, I owe it to the author to help him or her find at least 10 more sales, since most people won’t. It’s the principle of evangelism: being a witness to something makes you responsible for sharing it.

Thanks, Steve. Now that I know how cool you are, I hope to find you at least one good client…

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4 thoughts on “Interview with Steve Laube, part III”

  1. Thanks for doing this, Mick. It’s nice to get the scoop from someone like Steve who’s had his finger on the pulse of Christian publishing for so long.
    I appreciate you.

  2. It is great to be able to benefit from Mr. Laube’s experience by getting his views on the industry. I will try not to be intimidated and march on! Thank you for the labor of love, Mick!
    Maria Tatham

  3. Mick, I’m trying to figure out why I should take anything you say seriously when you don’t even support your own industry. How can you pontificate on what needs to happen with CBA and Christian fiction when you don’t even support the very people you’re preaching at/to? You just lost what little credibility you had with me.

  4. Lurker,
    I know it’s pretty pathetic, isn’t it? Would you believe I just bought a great book: The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Fiction. I’m so excited to finally be making enough money to have this thing called “discretionary income.” I used to have a real problem. I’d go into a bookstore and buy everything that caught my eye, not even considering how I’d pay off my credit cards at the end of the month. That was college. And now that I have a family, I’ve had to learn how to respect money.
    Does that earn me back some credibility?

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