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

The Nefarious e-Book Situation

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.

I just came from the Writing for the Soul Conference in Denver. It’s always an awesome conference, although attendance was down a little this year, probably because of rising costs. Thanks, Washington.

At the conference, several agents and editors sat around and talked about changes in the industry, which of course centered on the emergence of the e-book. A lot of things came out of this discussion, but the overall consensus was not how to work with the situation as it now exists, but that it is a fluid situation and will continue to change as technology evolves.

What does that mean? The Kindle is king right now, driven by price point and the position that Amazon commands in the e-book market. Will that continue? Those in the discussion felt it depends on the evolving technology. There was a feeling that the current e-readers are a first generation, and the situation is up for grabs as the next generation arrives.

The next generation is thought to be more like the iPad with expanded capabilities and features. So why isn’t the iPad leading the pack now? A majority of e-readers are being given as gifts, and the difference between the price point of e-readers and the iPad is making that decision. But prices for electronics tend to come down as production increases, so that situation may change.

More and more writers are going straight to Kindle with their books. When I began receiving submissions from authors who had published on Kindle, I surveyed over 200 editors to see what their position would be on receiving these kinds of submissions. It was as I expected: Over 70 percent said they weren’t interested in a submission on a book that had already been published, including Kindle.

Some said that they might look at it if the sales were significant enough, but the Kindle version had to be withdrawn first because the contracts require the e-book rights. So beware, authors who choose to go straight to Kindle are jeopardizing print possibilities. We may expect to see some changes there as well, but who knows when?

Self-e-book publishing may be a factor in smaller conference attendance, as well. Newer writers who don’t see the need to improve their craft or to network with agents and editors because they are going straight to e-book aren’t spending the money to attend conferences; rather, they are using that money to get their e-books out.

I believe those making this choice will soon realize they are making a strategic mistake. Most will not make the amount of money they would make with both print and e-book, and with publisher support behind them. However, some are making

enough money on just the e-book sales, which will capture the interest of a publisher. In publishing, the success of a few that defy the odds and make it big always drive the dreams of those who want to do the same.

Still, nothing is as constant as change, and this emerging technology is fascinating to watch. For example, women buy a majority of the books, and that has strongly influenced acquisitions. But with e-readers, sales are proving to be gender neutral. What? Yes, an equal number of men and women are buying e-books. This will change the mix in what will be published.

I just saw a report that included several other interesting facts: There is no disparity of sales between regions of the country; urban book buyers buy more books than rural book buyers; and while retirees say they have more time to read, the fully employed buy more e-books.

The bottom line with the discussion between editors and agents was that we are not seeing the crest of the e-book revolution, and change will be the order of the day. Are print books on the way out? No, because far too many people like a print book in their hands. But it is an interesting time to be involved in the publishing industry.


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