Beyond the Smoke
Tamela Hancock Murray

Tamela Hancock Murray has been with Hartline since 2001 and has placed authors’ books in both CBA and ABA. Her client roster includes award-winning, best-selling authors as well as new authors. A Virginia native, she is an accomplished writer who has authored many inspirational romance novels and novellas and several nonfiction Bible trivia books for children and adults. She is honored to write for the inspirational market and enjoys encouraging new and established authors. She earned her degree in Journalism (with honors) from Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia. Tamela is based at Hartline Literary Agency’s office in Manassas, Virginia. Learn more about Tamela’s work as an agent and author at tamela [at], or write her at 10383 Godwin Drive, Manassas, VA 20110.

Hartline Literary

Publishing and Recession

Not a day goes by that I don’t see a doom-and-gloom item in my e-mail box about the struggling publishing industry. However, despite the recession, I find that publishers are still buying books. News reports say that public libraries are seeing more patrons than ever. And why not? Books continue to be one of the best values in entertainment.

And speaking of editors buying books . . .

I’ve noticed a trend that more editors want to see complete manuscripts instead of proposals from authors who are new to them. Even experienced authors are being asked for complete manuscripts rather than the usual three chapters and a synopsis. Why?

1) An editor may read three chapters and become excited about a story. Months follow before the editor sees the rest. By then the market may have changed, and/or the editor’s initial excitement has waned.

2) The rest of the book may not live up to the first three chapters. The editor wants to know the entire books sparkles before contracting.

Maybe now is a good time to dust off that complete novel you wrote some time ago? Only, be sure to bring out a whole jar of polish!


Sue Brower had two exciting items for me. First, she was promoted from her position as Senior Acquisitions Editor to Executive Editor. This hardworking editor deserves our congratulations!

So what type of submissions does Sue want to see now? She tells me, “Our list is full for novels releasing through Spring 2009. I am looking for the next great book. (smile) So basically, I am not looking for any particular genre, although I will continue to specialize in Women’s Contemporary, Suspense, and Historicals. I still do not take unsolicited manuscripts. I pay attention to what agents send me and to those people I meet at writer’s conferences.”

Of course, the secret of any great editor is to pay attention to agents!

Moving along with another item from Sue . . .

Mount Hermon

Zondervan, in partnership with Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference, has held a first novel fiction competition. The winner will be announced at the April 2009 conference and offered a publishing contract with Zondervan.

Tamela says, “I can’t think of a better prize than that!”


Sometimes I still get questions about mysteries, so I promised Rebecca Germany, Senior Editor at Barbour Publishing, that I’d help her get out the word that “Barbour Publishing is no longer accepting proposals for cozy mysteries. The Heartsong Presents Mystery Book Club will be closing this spring.”

There is a silver lining for mystery authors: All contracted manuscripts will likely be found in future 3-in-1 collections.


Several sources say that the Collins division is closing, and its imprints are being redistributed within the company. The Bowen Press is closing. The line’s publisher, Brenda Bowen, is leaving the company.

Unfortunately, this type of news item isn’t uncommon in today’s market. Be sure to do a good Rolodex check before submitting anything anywhere in this climate.


Taken from Publisher’s Lunch

Weak Currency Drives Strong Finish for Harlequin

Harlequin recorded a strong fourth quarter, with sales of $126 million (CA) up over 18 percent from a year ago, and ebitda of $18.4 million up more than 30 percent. Good results were made even stronger by the decline of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar, and they say that “Harlequin’s revenues, to date, have not been significantly affected by the global, and in particular, U.S. economic situation.”

But parent Torstar suffered overall, with writedowns producing a net loss of $211 million for the quarter. They are cutting their dividend in half, and “as part of a planned transition,” CEO Robert Prichard will step down on May 6; EVP and CFO David Holland will serve as interim CEO.

In the release, Prichard praised Harlequin as the bright spot within the conglomerate: “Harlequin finished the year strongly with another good quarter that drove earnings for the year up 11 percent. This is the third year in a row of business growth for Harlequin which is making important gains in both print and digital products. We are very pleased with Harlequin's performance and prospects. We expect continuing stable results building on the success and growth of the last three years. Overall, we anticipate Harlequin will deliver a fourth good year in a row. Harlequin's results have held up well to date despite the recession.”

The company notes that “significant progress has been made in improving the efficiency of the retail business resulting in a higher percentage of books sold relative to books distributed.” But in a nod to the situation at Borders, they warn that forecasts “could change during 2009 either as a result of decreased consumer spending or from disruptions to the U.S. retail distribution system.”

For the full year, Harlequin had sales of $473 million, up 2 percent, while ebitda of $72.4 million was up 10.5 percent.


So It’s Not Fiction . . .

Vacation Bible School holds a special place in my heart. When I attended classes at my country church years ago, weak red Kool-Aid and cheap store-bought cream-filled cookies were the rule at snack time—and we welcomed both. “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus” and “Kum Bah Yah” were the hit songs. When I was in second grade, our class glued dried peas, corn, and other assorted vegetables onto a cutout of a rooster. Not sure if he had any connection to the lesson. In an act of love, my mother hung the two-foot tall rooster on a kitchen wall for years until the peas started to fall off.

This de rigeur Christian childhood summertime fun has gotten more sophisticated, as you’ll see from visiting the Concordia Publishing House Vacation Bible School site at

“We really expanded Web site this year,” says Vacation Bible School Marketing Manager Terri Simon. “Customers will find the basics about our Gadget’s Garage program and can easily place orders, but they can also download media, participate in community, and coming this winter, even create a congregational VBS Web page using our site.”

Beefing up the content and improving the features of the VBS Web site allows CPH to provide “a great way to get volunteers, parents, and students involved and excited long before VBS begins,” according to the company.

Web site features include:

• Community features like blogs, forums, and even a Facebook connection for discussion, and posting photos.

• A Leader Toolbox with tips for large and small VBS programs, FAQs on the benefits of site rotation (a style of VBS programming), and new and improved recruitment kit ideas.

• The Nuts & Bolts of Gadget’s Garage, which offers an overview of the program and details about the all new CPH Starter Kits and the featured 2009 VBS mission project.

Vacation Bible School Editor Cindy Wheeler shares, “At Gadget’s Garage VBS, kids learn about Jesus, their Savior, and respond by putting their faith in motion, using their hands, minds, ears, eyes, and hearts to serve Jesus and live as His people.” The Web site “helps customers better connect with the important message that CPH VBS is all about Jesus, every day in every way.”

What a great thought, and so applicable to CBA publishing. It’s true that some houses are cutting back on the slots they have to fill, and that new authors may find a tougher time breaking in as publishers stick with their current authors. Some genres and lines are being cut. Yet we rejoice in the strength and success of existing lines and books, and news of expansions at publishers such as Abingdon Press, New Hope, and Steeple Hill. I believe as long as the CBA publishing community stays on message, glorifying the Lord through all our books, our readers will find us.

Happy reading—and writing,