The Christian Speculative Fiction community is a-flutter today over news that Jeff Gerke, founder of Marcher Lord Press, sold the five-year-old company to Steve Laube.
Laube is a literary agent with an appreciation for Christian Speculative Fiction, having represented Bryan Davis, Sharon Hinck, and Tosca Lee. Gerke intends to focus on freelance editing and book production services.
Concerns have been raised over the deal, primarily centered on two aspects. First, there is a potential conflict of interest in an agent operating a publishing company. But Laube isn’t the first to do it, and I doubt he’ll be the last. With old-school publishers increasingly wary of untried authors, there’s little opportunity for agents to prove themselves as talent scouts. They can scout all the talent they want, but the publishers don’t want anyone who doesn’t have a built-in audience. For agents who’ve already found the talent, moving into publishing is a reasonable next step.
The other concern raised by Marcher Lord Press fans—and MLP is one of few publishing houses that has fans—is that the ownership change will produce a change in the company’s direction. For example, Laube has already said he will not continue to carry Throne of Bones and Amish Vampires in Space, two of MLP’s more controversial titles. If Laube is playing it safe, one can hardly blame him. Publishing is a risky business. He’s not the first publisher to play it safe, and he won’t be the last.
Read the official statement about the buyout.
Speculative Faith has a great write-up on the deal, and an engaging conversation going on in the comments.
Also at SpecFaith, Jeff Gerke reassures MLP fans.
Agent Amanda Luedeke sees hope in the deal.
Marcher Lord Press is certainly the biggest fish in the Christian Speculative Fiction pond, but not the only one. Over at New Authors Fellowship, I maintain a list of publishers that accept Christian Speculative Fiction and are open to unagented authors.