1. Adam says:

    The conflict of interest issue is one I’ve been repeatedly bringing up, though nobody I know seems to care at all. This is a problem, but not surprising, since writers rarely fight for their own best interests in the publishing world. It is likewise unsurprising that Steve has avoided the topic, because to address the issue would be to admit there is the possibility of there actually being a conflict of interest which would put the financial future of both MLP and his agency in peril.

    The real issue revolving around this conflict of interest is that no amount of “corrective policies” can solve the problem. There is no band-aid for this. Steve Laube has crossed over from being an agent and the organizer of an agency to being a publisher. That is a fundamental conflict of interest the ONLY solution for is the sale of the company to someone else or Steve Laube leaving the agent business and running MLP.

    Were Steve Laube my agent, the purchase of MLP would be an automatic firing offense, because it means that he is no longer undividedly on the side of his writer clients. Similarly, were I published by MLP, I would immediately review my contract with them and start the process of getting the rights to my novels back as soon as possible. This situation is sad and entirely unprofessional. It bears no reflection on the character of Jeff or Steve or anyone involved, but as a business situation it is entirely unacceptable. There is now no way to be *sure* that MLP or Steve Laube as an agent or his agency now serves the best interests of writers. My confidence in that is shaken, and our collective confidence in that as writers ought to be shaken. This is an unfortunate state of affairs. I don’t like it any more than any one else, but there it is.

    • Adam, I think there are a couple things here that need to be mentioned. Steve taking on Marcher Lord Press is not doing something completely outside the box. In many ways, his foray into publishing, separate from his agency, is far freer of the ethical stigma than what secular agents have been doing for the last couple years. (See this article written in June, 2011, about agencies becoming self-publishing consultants). I remember having a discussion at Rachelle Gardner’s site at least a year ago about the ethics of agents starting publishing companies. Now apparently Amazon has facilitated this collaboration. So Steve is not doing any ground-breaking move by purchasing MLP.

      Second, I think it’s fairly clear that an author would not sign with an agent who doesn’t have his best interests at heart–or at least shared best interests, since agents benefit from authors getting the best deal possible. So if a client felt they could have had a deal with a major publisher but the agent was steering them to MLP for the benefit of MLP, then I think that client would certainly sever ties. I mean authors need to be wary, and why would we assume they are asleep at the wheel while someone is taking advantage of them?

      But that brings me to the third thing. I don’t know Steve Laube well, but I’ve had enough contact to see how genuine his love for God is and how willing he is to help  writers–of all kinds, not just ones he thinks are brilliant and can earn him money. It would take an unscrupulous person setting out to scam writers if he was to make money doing what you suggest, and that isn’t Steve. He’s a man of integrity, and I’m sure his clients would attest to that though I’ve never asked any of them. His reputation is beyond reproach.

      The way a client can be *sure* the Steve Laube Agency has their best interests in mind is the same way any client of any other agency can be sure–stay in communication, know where the agent is sending your work, stay informed about the rejections you receive. I dare say, writers who receive rejections from major publishers are often thrilled that they have the opportunity to publish with a small press, and Steve is facilitating that, not only for his clients but for other writers as well. His reach is broader.


  2. Kerry Nietz says:

    Two points, just for clarity.
    On this:

    Those who feared no publishing company for mature Christian fiction may still have reasons to rejoice. Of course it remains to be seen who has taken it, if anyone, and what they will do with it. Only time will tell on that front.

    One need look no further than Vox’s blog to know that answer:

    On this:

    My guess is pretty simple. I think he just didn’t believe it fit the rest of the line up. It is an oddity from the MLP brand.

    Only if you think all my books are oddities. (And perhaps they are. 🙂 ) But AViS is no more or less an sci-fi oddity than a trilogy based in a world under sharia law, or a novel about a place where everything is up for a vote.

    In fact, given enough time and inspiration, I could write novels (Asimov-style) to connect them all into one shared universe.

    • R. L. Copple says:

      No doubt you are right on the story itself. But the title and cover look/sound on the spoof side of speculative fiction.  If someone hasn’t read it, they will think it isn’t as serious as the rest of the line.
      But, like I said, it is just a guess. Not saying that’s what Steve saw/thought. But it is a possibility. Especially if he’s not read it yet. I’m sure you’ll have continued success with it, though.

      • dmdutcher says:

        Mitchell Bond’s books are humor, so I can’t see this as a reason. If anything, we need spoof humor in SF; it’s one of the subgenres that the CBA will never touch.

        • R. L. Copple says:

          I agree, dm. Personally, I like a good spoof. But Steve also represents a lot of romance writers, I’m sure many being Amish. Though we know AViS treats them with respect, that may not be the perception out in Amish romance land unless they’ve read it. Me thinks he’s being overly cautious for fear of alienating the agency’s bread and butter. But again, that’s just my wild speculation.

  3. Fred Warren says:

    I thought it was a fairly bland statement that ought to calm jitters in the fanbase. A few items caught my eye:
    The agency, founded in 2004, has four agents and over 150 active authors…with contracts for nearly 1,000 new books.
    “The plan is to continue with what Jeff started and release between 4-8 new titles in 2014,”
    4-8 versus 1000, those presumably across a variety of other Christian-fiction genres. That’s a sizable disparity in emphasis to overcome if MLP is to prosper as a spec-fic house.
    Marcher Lord Press (MLP) releases only 4-8 titles per year. The readership of the genre are enthusiastic and voracious. Thus I don’t see MLP being competition [with other publishers to whom the Steve Laube Agency pitches books] in the larger sense of the word.
    So, if MLP’s output remains constant, there’s no competition, which seems on its face an odd approach to business. If MLP surges under Laube’s leadership, however, then competition will become a bigger issue.
    Our own agency’s agents will have the same chance to sell to MLP because it is set up as a company separate from The Steve Laube Agency.
    That will be interesting to watch in practice. It’s like saying there’s no connection between Taco Bell and Pepsi-Cola. For another example, reference Disney’s recent transfer of the Star Wars comics franchise from indy Dark Horse to Disney-owned Marvel.
    Initially it will be business as usual. The people and resources already in place will remain unchanged.
    Probably neither revolution nor assimilation in the works, then.
    Anyhow, best wishes to all involved. Should be fun to see what the next few years bring.

  4. notleia says:

    *obligatory disgruntled grumbling noises*

  5. Terri Main says:

    Ultimately, Steve is a CBA/ECPA insider. His philosopy is going to reflect that. He’s a CBA/ECPA insider who likes speculative fiction, but probably likes it a bit more sanitized than Jeff was willing to consider. Whether that is good or bad depends on your POV, but it definitely signals a change of direction for MLP. Don’t expect to see the more cutting edge, bold, push the limits type of books MLP has been famous for. 

What do you think?