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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Heard It Through Hartline

The New Breed of Agent

Last month I announced several changes at Hartline. We continue restructuring as agent Diana Flegal establishes a field office in Ashville, North Carolina, and Kathy Myers joins us at the agency as Joyce Hart’s executive assistant.

This month I’d like to talk about why all these changes. My good friend and Pulitzer nominee Jory Sherman wrote a blog recently on a call for a new breed of agent ( It is interesting to note that at the time he wrote this, Hartline had already begun to address some of the items he talks about.

He takes note that “legacy publishers are no longer promoting either midlist books or their authors, so the writer must promote and publicize their books in order to compete in today’s competitive market.” We recognized some time ago the need to be more proactive on the behalf of the author as advances have gotten smaller, and more and more houses don’t offer them at all. It’s true that royalties have increased, but with several publishers cutting back on promotion for smaller authors as Jory suggests, we felt the need to offer the author more assistance on the sales and promotion end of the effort.

Our first response was to establish a client group for the discussion of PR and marketing, where they share tips and talk about what does and does not work. We stopped short of actually usurping the work of publicists, as Jory suggests. I for one simply don’t have the time because of all my other tasks.

Hartline chose to add an in-house publicist to work with our clients. Jennifer Hudson Taylor works with our authors as soon as they sign with an agent to start developing that all-important name recognition. When they sign a publisher’s contract, she helps them prepare for the release of the book, and when their books release, she works with the authors on PR, sales, and promotion.

Jory suggests that literary agents are becoming obsolete, since the writer can now directly publish their own books, but as Mark Twain said, “The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.” I recently surveyed over 400 editors at various mainstream and Christian publishing houses, asking them if they would be willing to take on a print project that had already been published as an ebook. Seventy percent responded with a flat no, because they don’t do reprints, whether it is hardcopy or ebook, and most of the remaining responders said they would look at one, but it would have to have significant (multi-thousand) sales and the book would then have to be removed from any listing so the ebook rights could be included in the publisher’s contract. Will this change? Maybe, but it is the situation at present.

It is true that those who go straight to ebook can also set up an account and self-publish to get a print copy via POD technology. But Publishers Weekly points out that over 80 percent of all books published today sell one hundred copies or less. This number is primarily fueled by those authors who have

self-published or believe they can go straight to ebook without help. Sure, some are successfully doing it, but apparently the large majority needs some production, sales, and marketing assistance.

While Hartline has chosen not to be involved in the production of books in this manner, we have instead allied ourselves with several providers that we feel give the author the most bang for the buck, assist in the contract, ensure that the book is well produced and supported in a manner that will give the author a chance to rise above the huge number of titles coming out now. And of course, the PR and marketing help is there for them as well.

We don’t counsel and assist the client to take these steps as long as we think we can secure a contract for them at a “legacy publisher,” as Jory termed it. But when the client thinks it is time to consider other options, we help them to do it right and in a manner that assures they won’t get lost in the herd. While clients can make a larger percentage on sales if they do it all on their own, we believe that they will end up with a larger return if they have the assistance to do it right and promote it properly.

Will we continue to evolve as he suggests? Who knows? A couple of years ago I would have scoffed at the idea that we would be making the changes we are. The rate of change over the past few years, primarily due to emerging technology, is amazing, and we have no idea what else is in store for us. But we love a challenge and expect the future to be most exciting.


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