Beyond the Smoke
Terry Burns

Terry Burns is an agent with Hartline Literary as well as writing inspirational fiction. As a writer he has over 40 books in print including 10 novels. He has a new 4 book series from Port Yonder Press entitled “The Sagebrush Collection” of his collected short works and the first released March 2010 entitled “On the Road Home.” A Young Adult entitled Beyond the Smoke won the Will Rogers Medallion and a new book “A Writer’s Survival Guide to Publication” also from Port Yonder Press was developed out of the month long course he held for ACFW. A popular speaker at workshops across the country, a bookstore of his available works as well as a regular blog can be found at As an agent Terry says "I'm looking for a good book, well written in a unique voice, aimed at a market that looks promising, and where I feel I have the contacts appropriate to be able to sell the book in that market. I’m pretty open as to genre but I don’t do children’s, sci fi or fantasy. He’s a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR).

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Answers From The Agent

Kindle - Objectively

The most popular sessions at conferences are agent and editor panels where people get to ask specific questions. 

This column is going to respond to such direct questions, plus questions that come from the Hartline blog and 

other sources. I’d love to hear from you.

That darn Kindle

I couldn’t see any reason that I needed one; then I got one for Christmas.

I made a resolution for 2011 to read more. The Kindle is making that much easier to accomplish as well as saving me some money. I can also load manuscripts on it that I need to read, which is very helpful.

There are quite a number of other e-readers on the market, and I find each has its dedicated supporters, and I don’t want anybody to take this as a Kindle promotion over any other e-reader.

Having said that, Kindle is currently the big dog in the market as far as the number of sales and the amount of available content. I don’t care to predict whether it will hold that position or be overtaken. My crystal ball broke some years back, and I have been unable to find a replacement. I perked up when I started seeing some royalty statements coming though with over half of the sales being Kindle sales.

As a writer, that prompted me to take steps to ensure my titles were on Kindle. I’m in an invitation-only group that includes some of the most widely published Western writers today (it’s a mystery to me why they asked me to join). One of the top priority items for them is getting their backlists on e-readers, particularly Kindle, plus looking at simply publishing some things there to begin with.

The second half of that strategy interested me. I am getting submissions from people who have published their books on the Kindle and are now looking to me to represent the project for print publication. Several times I had such a question and decided to survey editors to get an answer. They have been terrific about helping out.

I tried to phrase the question in such a way as not to lead the answer, so I simply told them I was getting this type of submission and I was curious about their attitudes toward them. The results were very interesting.

7 percent say it would not matter to them either way.

20 percent say they would consider a self-pubbed or Kindle, but the odds would be against them.

57 percent said they would not buy a manuscript that had been self-pubbed or e-pubbed, or would require the e-rights in the contract, which most said they felt getting those rights released at Amazon would be difficult, since once a book is on Kindle, Amazon is very reluctant to release it. For all practical purposes that is a no or doubtful on those.

Finally, 16 percent said they would consider it but only if significant sales numbers could be demonstrated.

A few of the representative editorial comments included:

“This sparked an interesting discussion. Basically, we’d view a Kindle edition as a self-published version. For now, it’s going to be harder to benchmark what makes a successful Kindle sales number. And if we were to take a book that had been pubbed on Kindle (and its ebook kin), we’d expect electronic rights to be part of the package that we’d be buying, so previous ebook editions would have to go away prior to our publication.”

“An interesting new development . . . our current stance on that is we won’t look at a manuscript previously published, whether it is self-published, ebook, or with a foreign publisher.”

“We use Kindle and Nook editions in a huge way, both in promotions and sales. To have a competing (and unedited) edition out there would create problems, especially since Amazon will not remove a book from their site once it’s been published.”

“An interesting question, Terry. And thorny. We won’t publish a book without acquiring electronic rights, so I’d recommend pulling the book from any sites before submitting it. Like any self-pubbed work, we’d want to know how widely it’d be distributed. So we would want to know how many downloads it’d received.”

“Generally we are not interested in taking on anyone that has already put their books online. One of the reasons is that in order to present that book to buyers of the major chains, our distributor has to present it at least six months before the book’s release. Those authors that are so anxious to release their books online don’t realize they are shooting themselves in the foot, so to speak, because once that book is released, it becomes a backlisted book and the buyers don’t want anything to do with it.”

“Since we don’t contract for print rights only, if a title is already published in any format, it usually precludes us from contracting at all. We do take some reprints (contracting both print and electronic rights) but usually from established authors who already have a readership and on titles that we feel will do well regardless of the fact that they have been previously released.”

I found the results and the varied comments interesting but not surprising.. Seven percent is pretty small odds for me and they were from primarily small houses. I suppose it would then come down to my wanting to represent the manuscript unless the ebook was down and/or the sales numbers up.

In my opinion, this will change as technology continues to evolve, and it bears continued scrutiny.


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