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Friday, January 3, 2014

Marcher Lord Press sold... to the Laube Agency?

As are many in the Christian speculative fiction market, I am quite stunned by the announcement that Jeff Gerke has sold Marcher Lord Press (MLP) to the Steve Laube Agency.

Looking around the web I see a lot of speculation and mostly disappointment surrounding this announcement.

Clearly the concern is that MLP will lose its edge, and I quite agree that this is a genuine concern. With Jeff at the helm the company has pressed into daring ground and, it can be argued, Jeff himself has become the MLP brand.

I am not a fan of vampire fiction, but I applauded Jeff's decision to publish Vampires In Space because it showed he was publishing the stories that appealed to him, not what was necessarily the most marketable and CBA acceptable fiction.

On a fantasy fiction note I was encouraged to see Jeff create Hinterlands and subsequently release A Throne Of Bones. While I did not find the writing of that particular title to be stellar I was excited that Jeff might pursue some books that could be the Christian answer to Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth series.

If I may be allowed, I will voice my concern:We geeks are sensitive creatures and we like consistency. We like the brave and the bold who venture "where no man has gone before." And that means venturing outside the style and scope of the CBA market.

If the new Marcher Lord, Steve Laube, is to succeed with this endeavor then he has to become a very approachable person. Jeff was that and feedback I received from those who interacted with Steve was that he does not have that general reputation. However, my agent (Amanda Luedeke) holds him in high regard and that counts for a lot in my book

This is not a swing at Steve; I believe he can make MLP succeed and I applaud the risk he is taking. But I will be interested to see if his approach to the brand takes the Jeff out of it. I will be interested to see whether the new Marcher Lord Press concerns itself more with what is acceptable to the CBA than what is desirable to its geek following. It is a tricky proposition and I am hoping it does not.

Steve Laube will be holding a discussion on his agency's blog regarding this acquisition on January 6th (a Monday) and I am extremely interested to see what he reveals for the company's direction. http://stevelaube.com/blog/

Obviously this is a hot topic right now with many of us, so please comment if you are interested in discussing!

5 comments:

Robert Treskillard said...

Scott,

Personally, I think we're going to see a different side to Steve than we've ever seen before.

As an agent he had to be absolutely practical. If a house wouldn't buy the work, he couldn't waste his time on it.

But I don't think what he represented was an indicator of his own tastes, particularly in speculative fiction.

And the purchase of MLP itself should tell you something about Steve. I highly doubt he would have invested his money in it if, in general, he thought it needed any major changes.

Which means he must:

(1) like the back-list pretty well
(2) like the books that are in the pipe-line for the future, and
(3) like the publishing model that allows for a return on investment with a only minimal # of books sold, allowing for more risk taking.

We'll see, but I think this is a brilliant move by Jeff (assuming he really needed to sell MLP), and one that will put the company on a firm financial footing for years to come.

-Robert

Scott Appleton said...

Hi Robert!

I am curious to see what happens. I think the general CBA is going to be quite happy with this change in ownership, but I would not be surprised if geek culture pulls away from MLP. Maybe it won't, but as I said I think Jeff IS the MLP brand. It will be a difficult shift, at the very least.

Also, I do think the announcement of no more Hinterlands and MLP dropping "Amish Vampires in Space" is a Major change in the direction Jeff was steering the company. Steve's comment on the Spec Faith site seemed to say he wants to play it safe with what books he puts out there. His comment talks about mature themes but did not address the vampire question, so I think he will play it safer than Jeff. But if he does he runs the risk of losing the edge Jeff created in the market.

As to Jeff, I imagine his biggest reason for getting out was to narrow his focus. He probably pulled himself in too many directions with the company, his own writing, and freelance editing pursuits.

Scott Appleton said...

One last comment on this: playing it safe would work well, but MLP meets a niche market that wouldn't like the change. I think Steve would have to grow a new niche market if he chose to go that route.

My prediction: the new MLP will be more like I originally envisioned Flaming Pen Press when I published Kestrel's Midnight Song.

Robert Treskillard said...

Jeff was forced to create Hinterlands or else he would have invalidated all of the MLP books from Carol and Christy award consideration. (He spoke about this at the Realm Makers conference.)

My guess is that Steve doesn't want to jeopardize this relationship with the CBA either, and that's fine.

Not only that, but trying to take over MLP will be task enough without adding the complications of Hinterlands.

Still, it will be interesting to see how Steve puts his own imprint on MLP. Personally, I'm not worried.

Scott Appleton said...

I'm thinking there is a possibility that your publisher, Robert, will be the new go-to publisher for Christian authors writing sci-fi and fantasy.

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"Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." -Proverbs 16:24

In a world where morality is forsaken and Christ neglected, wholesome books are uncommon. The themes of my writing are love, self-sacrifice, and honor.

I see my generation turning from God to the gods of this world. I see homes torn apart in the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification. Children are murdered by the millions every year . . . without ever seeing the world outside their mothers' wombs. Through fiction I strive to encourage those who are willing, to stand against these things and be heroes and heroines; chivalrous, gentle, full of righteous indignation, and the fear and love of their Creator.