Monday, April 25, 2011

Meet Literary Agent Les Stobbe

The Barn Door Book Loft. Free Books! Book Giveaways.

Guest post by Jennifer Slattery

I'm honored to have the privilege to introduce one of my favorite literary agents in the Christian fiction industry, Les Stobbe. He always has a friendly word of encouragement or an interesting tidbit of information to offer and never snubs a newbie or unknown author. He's one of those rare agents who actually takes the time to respond to emails--whether he likes your work or not.

Currently, Mr. Stobbe functions as the Executive Editor of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He was the founding editor of the Mennonite Observer, served as editor at Christian Life Publications, editorial director of Cambridge Publishers (business magazines), Moody Press Books, Christian Herald Books and Book Clubs, and Here's Life Publishers Ltd., as managing editor of curriculum for Scripture Press and as editor of Christian Education Journal.

For seven years he served as president of Here's Life Publishers. From 1996 to 2001 Les served as Vice President of Communications at Vision New England in Acton, MA. He is author or co-author of 14 books and has written more than 700 published articles—and currently keeps his days filled as mentor, article writer, and literary agent.

Since 1963 He has been lecturing at Christian writers’ conferences, including ones in Europe, England, The Philippines, Singapore, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those experiences helped him write 34 of the 50 lessons in Christian Writers’ Guild’s What’s Your Story apprentice course and 20 lessons in the Journeyman Course. The Word Guild in Canada presented Les with the Partnership Award for significant service to Canadian writers who are Christian. The Montrose Christian Writers Conference presented him with the R.A. Torrey Award.

Having worked in the industry for nearly six decades, as a writer, editor and agent, Mr. Stobbe knows the writing industry. "It’s 56 years since I first sat at a typewriter as founding editor of a denominational weekly," he says. "Twelve pages had to be filled every week, including a weekly editorial, devotional, children’s story, news—with no secretary.

"After four years I took off one year to teach at a Christian high school. Before that year was out I was hired by Moody Press to supervise the selling floor of their bookstore, but within six months I was spending half days as manuscript evaluation editor for Kenneth Taylor at Moody Press. Evaluating 250 or more high schoolers’ essays at regular intervals had sensitized me to quality levels in writing."

The skills learned and wisdom gained during each of these varied roles equipped him for his role as literary agent. "Except for managing a staff of 10 proofreaders and editors, my work as sole acquisitions editor at Moody Press was almost identical to being a literary agent," Mr. Stobbe says. "In each situation I have helped mostly beginning writers achieve publishing levels in their book manuscripts.

"At Moody, I did my correspondence on the train going to work—as agent I have the luxury of an up-to-date computer. At Moody I annually had to scrutinize the royalty reports for our authors before they went out—and now I do it as literary agent after I receive them. My joy is working with authors, aiming to help them get published with the life-giving message of Jesus’ death and resurrection."

His experience as a former acquisition editor gave him the experience needed to recognize quality, marketable work. "I felt it took five years as Moody editor to really get a handle on what would sell, regardless of how scholarly the manuscript or how important the preacher," Mr. Stobbe says. "I learned that transparency sells, that considering the reader more important than your great ideas fueled bestsellers, that listening to women talk around meal tables at writers conferences was a superb way of gathering market intelligence. Just one table of women from different states revealed their passions, their concerns, what they wanted their pastors to know and do—and later helped me select books that could meet those felt needs."

That is an excellent marketing strategy. It reminds me of something Dr. Dennis Hensley said in one of the classes he taught at the ACFW conference last September. He said if you want to be a great write, if you want interesting stories, shut up and listen.

An active Literary Agent for 17 years and Executive Editor of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, Les Stobbe also serves as director of International Christian Writers. He’s taught journalism as Journalist in Residence at Gordon College, Wenham, MA and wrote most of the lessons for the Apprentice Course and Journeyman non-fiction course for the Christian Writers Guild. He has been denominational editor, magazine editor, newsletter editor, book editor, book club vice-president, curriculum managing editor, and president of a book publishing house. He has written 14 books and hundreds of magazine and newsletter articles. He has been married to his musician wife Rita for 54 years and is very proud the five grandchildren of their two children.

Come back tomorrow as Mr. Stobbe discusses recent shift in the industry, the importance of developing a platform and why every writer should do a bit of freelance.

In the meantime, visit his website to find more about him, his agency, and the type of books he represents.


Raquel Byrnes said...

Very generous with tips and wisdom, Mr. Stobbe gave me some excellent advice about my proposal a few years ago. I'm happy to say it met with success. Thank you so much!
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Gail Pallotta said...

Thanks for hosting Mr. Stobbe on the Barn Door Loft. I'll keep his advice about transparency and pleasing the reader close.

Rich Bullock said...

Les is my agent, so interesting to see what you and he have to say! Thanks for spotlighting him.

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