On January 1st, many of this blog’s readers awoke to the news that Jeff Gerke had sold Marcher Lord Press to Steve Laube, president of The Steve Laube Agency.
The reactions varied from hopeful to skeptical of MLP’s future. Questions were raised on several fronts. Primary among them was the decision not to purchase the Hinterlands imprint, containing more mature stories, and the popular Amish Vampires in Space novel. People like Mike Duran questioned whether this signaled a pulling away from publishing more “realistic” stories in the future. Many seemed confused about the decision to not buy AviS.
Some worried whether this signaled a future for MLP back into Amish romances as so many other Christian publishers tend to publish.
To those questions, Steve promised in his comment to the above thread to offer a question and answer on his blog by the 6th. He came through, the article appeared early Monday morning.
Did he answer all questions? To some degree. But he does reveal some information of interest, leaving more questions in its wake.
Will Marcher Lord Press’ Focus Shift Away from Speculative Fiction?
Based on Jeff’s trust in him, and Steve’s own admission of loving speculative fiction, I think the following statement speaks for itself:
MLP has been and will continue to be the premier publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy for the Christian market.
When you think about it logically, it would be a waste of Steve’s money to buy a company with a reputation for speculative fiction, then alienate the fan base by going more mainstream. He obviously bought a publishing company specializing in speculative fiction because that’s what he wants to publish.
Not that it’s impossible, but I don’t think there are any Amish romances in MLP’s future short of a speculative one, and he turned down the one Amish title MLP did have.
What is the Future of Hinterlands?
Steve gives us new information on this topic:
That imprint and all those titles have been sold by Jeff Gerke to a third party and will likely reappear under a new publishing name in the near future.
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.
But the selling away of the Hinterlands imprint does indicate that MLP under Steve won’t be as bold as Jeff was in considering stories with mature themes. Some will rejoice at that decision, others will bemoan it. In the end, every publisher has to make that call.
Why Reject Amish Vampires in Space?
On this topic, Steve doesn’t give much of his own reasons for it. He did clear up that he didn’t turn it down due to thinking it had mature content, and acknowledges it is a well written story, but ends up saying, “. . . ultimately it would not have been a book I would have published had I been the publisher.”
People will speculate on his reasons. 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. A good oddity in many eyes, but one that doesn’t “fit” with the rest. Publishers reject well written manuscripts telling a great story for this reason all the time.
I’m not saying it does or doesn’t fit, or that is why he chose not to take it, but I can see that as a likely basis for the decision. What the real story is, it will be up to Steve to divulge if he so chooses. This answer probably won’t quell the speculation mill, however.
Conflict of Interest?
Most of the rest of the questions deal with the appearance of a conflict of interest in a literary agency president also owning a publishing company. He focused on potential conflicts of interest with publishers, agents, and authors.
This happened to be a question I asked. He answered only one part of my question, however. His answer boiled down to the fact that:
- MLP will only be publishing four to eight new titles a year and it is one of the few prime Christian speculative fiction publisher for agents and individuals to submit to.
- MLP will look for the best, no matter the source.
- MLP will remain a separate company from the agency.
While all that is true for now, there still remains a conflict of interest when Steve’s agency attempts to sell a manuscript to MLP. It isn’t so much a matter of whether MLP will favor the agency’s submissions, but how well represented will an author feel if the agency negotiating a contract with MLP is also owned by the same person as MLP? What policies are in place that will ensure that The Steve Laube Agency will negotiate it as aggressively as one to Thomas Nelson?
I don’t think that question was answered. One solution would be a prearranged deal that when that happened, the manuscript would be passed to an outside agency.
E. Stephen Burnett, in his January 1st article announcing the sale linked above, likens the change to the recent regeneration of the Doctor in BBC’s hit show, “Doctor Who.”
The metaphor is apt. Each time the Doctor regenerates, I’m thinking, “But the other guy is the Doctor. This guy doesn’t look right!” But after a few episodes I find myself thinking, “I love this guy!” People often talk about their favorite doctor since the reboot, most seeming to land on David Tennant. But I have difficulty picking a favorite, because each one is like my kids, special in their own unique way.
So I’ve learned not to prejudge the new doctor until I’ve spent some time with him. Allow him to fall or stand on his own merits rather than comparing him with the previous doctor.
Likewise, I think instead of fearing the worst, we should spend a few “episodes” with Steve before dismissing Jeff’s pick to follow him. Give him time to show us what kind of fiction he’ll promote. Let him stand on his own merits, not on our speculation of what we think he might do.
Did his Q&A answer your questions?