On the heels of the news that Steve Laube has purchased Marcher Lord Press, I contacted the new owner regarding the questions that some feel still have been unanswered. Despite the mound of correspondence he’s received since the news broke, Steve kindly agreed to provide us with further insight.
First, my own disclaimer. I’ve known Steve for about ten years now. Not well, mind you, but well enough for him to have rejected offering representation for my work three different times. I’ve heard him speak several times at a small local writers’ conference and met with him more than once at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.
On each occasion I’ve seen something different. He’s hardworking, knowledgeable, visionary, insightful, godly, vulnerable, unselfish with his time. My greatest impression of him, however, is that he is a man of Christian conviction who wants to help writers.
That being said, here is the interview with the new Marcher Lord Press guru.
RLM: Steve, I’m sure you’ve been inundated with questions since your announcement went out that you’ve purchased Marcher Lord Press, so I really appreciate your willingness to give Spec Faith some of your time. From our initial post on the news and from a follow-up response to your Q & A blog post, we’ve had a number questions. I’ll throw in a couple of my own.
You said you think speculative fiction is under represented in the Christian publishing industry (and I agree). Why buy an existent company rather than start your own (which could practically double the output of speculative fiction for the Christian market)? Besides the under representation issue, is there any other reason you want to be involved in publishing books in this genre (as opposed to mystery, for example)?
I think it is well-known that I’ve been a longtime supporter of the genre. I discovered Karen Hancock, for example, and was the one who brought Kathy Tyers and others into our market as an editor in the 90s. It has always been a favorite category in my own reading.
RLM: You mentioned that for now, you anticipate things as usual—same number of titles, operating procedure, and many of the same authors. What do you hope to see for Marcher Lord Press down the line? Are you hoping to expand the number of titles (in other words, do you see speculative fiction for the Christian market as a growth industry)? Would you consider moving more toward e-publishing? Toward traditional publishing so that MLP books might appear on bookstore shelves? Or are you satisfied with the MLP product as is?
Steve Laube: All are good questions that will be answered with time. It is too early to answer these questions in detail. Other than to say that the books are already in ebook form so not quite sure what is meant by “moving toward e-publishing.”
RLM: That ebook question was mine. I know of some publishers who have moved toward ebook publishing first, adding print publishing only if sales warrant such. I was wondering if MLP would consider going in that direction, especially since ebooks seem to have broken out and are contributing to the change in the publishing landscape.
Along the line of changing things, will you still be open to unagented authors? Are you open to submissions now?
Steve Laube: This was answered in the Q&A on my blog earlier today. The answer is yes and yes.
RLM: Hmmm, yes, I see now. You said, “We will consider both agented and unagented submissions. The submission guidelines are found on the Marcher Lord Press website.” That’s good news for writers.
Some people see you as a “CBA” insider. While you stated that early in life you fell in love with science fiction, and that you believe the whole speculative genre can build worlds never explored, there’s still the question about how that type of story relates to “Christian.” Will you expect a conversion scene in the books that you publish? What will make the Marcher Lord Press books you acquire, Christian? What do you think of stories told from “a Christian worldview”?
Steve Laube: I am unashamedly a follower of Jesus Christ. My entire life has been devoted to the spreading of the gospel through books of all kinds. The decision to purchase MLP was made only after seeking the Lord’s face and trying to discern His will in all things. As has been said to me, “Without THE Lord, there would be no Marcher Lord.”
That said, the question of what makes a Christian novel Christian? An age-old question which I’ve lectured on at conferences for nearly 22 years. There is no simple answer other than to say that “story” is first. Tell a great story. If there is an overt faith element it must be a natural part of that story. I can tell when it is manufactured or added to make something “feel” Christian.
A great example of the creativity available in this genre is found in the Firebird series by Kathy Tyers. In that series she asks the question “what would our universe look like 2,000 years from now? But a universe into which Jesus has not yet come, the first time.” Man would have conquered space. And there would still be a people, a remnant, waiting for a Messiah to come from their people. Into that world the Firebird story takes place. Technically it is a tale of the Hebrew people. So is that a Christian novel or not? Read it for yourself and answer the question.
RLM: Another set of individuals, despite your assurances that your agency will compete with all other agencies, is concerned about conflict of interest. For example, if the Steve Laube Agency is negotiating with MLP, how can the client know that his best interests are being served by his agent? Is it simply a matter of trust and integrity or will you put policies in place to ensure that the Agency will negotiate with MLP as aggressively as it would, say, with Thomas Nelson?
Steve Laube: The contract terms will be the same for all authors. Makes things simple.
RLM: So going in, all agents will know what the Marcher Lord Press contract is. That does make it simple.
One more. There have been questions about the decision to return to the author the rights of Amish Vampires In Space. Is this an indication that you are not, to use the analogy of one individual, as much a trailblazer as a homesteader? What message about the future MLA titles can fans of Christian speculative fiction read into this decision?
Steve Laube: My suggestion would be to avoid reading a “message” into a decision that isn’t there. As I stated in the Q&A, while I admire the intent of that publication, that title is not one I would have chosen to publish if I had been the owner of MLP at the time. Thus it was reverted to the author. To say anything more invites a debate which would be unnecessary.
The issue of trailblazer vs. homesteader is a subjective analysis that each reader will make based on their own criteria. We can only endeavor to publish the very best writers and the very best stories in a genre we all love with a passion.
RLM: Steve, you may not know this about us writers, but we are always trying to read things into what agents and editors say, even if it’s in a form rejection letter (Did she send it out personally or did it come from an assistant? Does that mean . . .).
Again Steve, I really appreciate you answering questions in the face of all the feedback you’re getting and the work ahead of you to actually run the business. I for one am looking forward to the direction you’ll take Marcher Lord Press. Let me close with a quote from one of your comments here at Spec Faith:
Steve Laube: All I ask is for patience with the process. I earnestly desire your support. My long-standing passion for this genre has never wavered. It has been a privilege to work with some of the best this industry has had to offer in Karen Hancock, Kathy Tyers, Chuck Black, Patrick Carr, R.J. Larson, Randy Ingermanson & John Olson, Lisa Bergren, Tosca Lee, Bryan Davis, Sharon Hinck, Jared Wilson, and others. My hope is to continue and build upon what Jeff Gerke built these past few years.