Beyond the Smoke

Hartline Literary Agency represents fiction and non-fiction books to leading inspirational and mainline publishers. Over the years, we have built valuable working relationships with editors, which help us guide your work toward the most appropriate markets. We currently represent many award-winning authors, and we seek to add both published and promising new authors to our client list. If we recognize potential in your work we will do our best to give it the exposure and attention it deserves. Our core strength is representing inspirational fiction and non-fiction books for adults. We do not market children's books, short fiction, screenplays, scripts, poetry, or magazine articles. We represent most genres in inspirational or commercial fiction except science fiction and fantasy. Visit us at

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Answers From The Agents

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. We’d love to hear from you.

Is it true that if authors do not follow submission rules, their manuscripts will automatically be rejected?

Joyce HartJoyce:

For the most part, this is true. There are always exceptions, but most days I get so many proposals that I look at only the ones that are done according to the guidelines on our website, We ask that you send your proposal as an e-mail attachment. It is helpful to write a short summary and a short bio in the body of the e-mail, simply because we don’t like to open an attachment from someone completely unknown to us. It’s a safety issue. If you do send a proposal via the post office, the ones done according to our guidelines get looked at first. Please, no fancy graphics, notebook format, or binders. Just plain manuscript sheets, double spaced.

Terry Burns accepts e-mail attachments only, nothing by mail or other carrier. Tamela Hancock Murray, Diana Flegal, and I prefer e-mail attachments, but will accept proposals sent via USPS, UPS, or FedEx. Be sure to include return postage if you want a reply or your material returned. For all agents, when submitting proposals via e-mail or even by mail, be sure to provide a good e-mail address. We hate for our responses to bounce, because we have no other way to get in touch with you.

Also, please do your homework and learn the difference between a proposal and a query. A query is asking me whether I’ll look at your proposal and should include a short summary and a short bio. I need to know, even at this point, why you are qualified to write the book.

We do look forward to receiving proposals, for that’s how we find the next best seller!!

How can I know which agents are legit?

Tamela Hancock MurrayTamela:

This question is close to my heart because a self-proclaimed “agent” tried to rip me off early in my writing career. His letterhead bore a large cross, and he said he was more than happy to charge me $395 to sell my work. Note: A large cross on one’s letterhead does not a legitimate agent make. The CBA agents I know do not make money on fees, but earn commissions on works sold. With the cost of long-distance phone calls diminishing and more agents submitting via e-mail, even charges for calls and postage are becoming less commonplace.

Several good listings to find agents are available, but listings tell only part of the story. To find a wonderful, legitimate agent, I recommend making personal contacts by joining professional

organizations such as ACFW and RWA and meeting agents through those. You can also go to conferences. I don’t mind writers contacting me through social networking sites if they want to get to know me before submitting. Another fantastic way to meet legitimate agents is to ask your friends about their agents. If a friend can recommend you, not only do you know the agent is legitimate, but the friend’s recommendation will open the door for you.

Why are you nitpicking the formatting and grammar? Isn’t it the story that is important?

Terry Burns


Yes and no. You see, the manuscript is usually read only after the submission has passed through a number of tests designed to weed out the manuscripts that are not a good fit so that editors do not spend a lot of time reading what they can’t use. The object is for your manuscript to be lying on the agent’s or editor’s desk after having passed all the tests; those remaining will be read.

One of these tests is grammar and formatting. Does the submission look like it needs a great deal of rewriting or editing? If it does it could be rejected in favor of other submissions that are good stories and are ready to go without a lot of editing and formatting.

A second fact is that most editors wear two hats. They are an acquisition editor, then after projects are acquired they will be an editor who works on a project to get it ready for publication. It is the acquisition editor we want reading a submission, but if the manuscript is not in good shape, they will be thinking about things that need to be done to fix the manuscript. They start thinking more like a copyeditor than an acquisition editor and thinking more about formatting than about story. That’s why we want to give them a flawless manuscript. We don’t want to turn on the copyeditor; we want them reading the story.

I write only short stories and magazine articles; should I have an agent?

Diana FlegalDiana:

Most short fiction markets and magazines have a non-negotiable contract. With a little information and effort you can do this yourself, without an agent. There simply isn’t enough money to be made for the agent to make it worth their while.