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 is 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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It’s conference season again. I enjoy the one-on-one appointments with conference attendees. I just came back from the Writing for the Soul conference by Jerry B. Jenkins in Denver. Excellent conference.

Too many people don’t take an appointment because they don’t have a project to pitch. It’s a missed opportunity, for most editors and agents I know enjoy having “teaching appointments” with conferees. Though they don’t have anything to pitch, they do have questions. I enjoy those, as long as I’m told up front so I’m not waiting for a pitch that isn’t coming.

Then there is the conferee who takes up all their appointment talking. You can’t sell your project in a ten- or fifteen-minute appointment. That isn’t enough time, but you can make an impression on the agent or editor so they will remember you when we have the chance to send your proposal to him or her. An editor or agent will let you talk your time away if you insist; that makes it easy for him or her. But if you really want to make an impression, engage that agent or editor and make him or her participate in the dialogue. It’s the same with agents using the time to read your proposal. They will probably ask you to send it electronically because most won’t remember what they read beyond the first two or three appointments, if that many.

Remember, the competition for contracts is stiff. Before you go to an editor/agent appointment remember these tips: Make your submission outstanding, make it your best work, exactly follow their submission guidelines.

What does it take to give a successful pitch? For the Hartline agents, we sell manuscripts to editors we know and have a relationship with. That means I’m looking for projects that really interest me, are well written, and, most important, are manuscripts that match what these editors are looking for. The last thing I want to do is put something under contract when I have no place to go with it.

Some conferees are so nervous during their appointments that they can hardly talk. I understand that, as I am a very shy person. But this is not about being afraid to muff the chance to sell that project they want to see published so badly. It is a chance to make a new friend, one who might be helpful on the road to publication.

Conference appointments can be a very enjoyable time for both faculty and conferees if we approach it right. Take advantage of it.


Survival Guide