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

When the Manuscript Is Finished

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.

When we are finished writing a book, while everything is hot and fresh in our minds, some vital things need to be prepared that will be used in every step in the process of getting the book represented, published, promoted, and sold.

First is the concept sentence, promo sentence, or logline. It is a single short, compelling sentence that tells the main concept of the book.

Second is an elevator pitch or cover copy. It is a slightly longer version of the logline, two to three sentences that are used to pitch the book to an agent or editor if we find ourselves with a very brief opportunity to do so. Later it is used as cover copy and in advertising and promotion. These first two items are commonly used in cover letters as well.

Third is a short synopsis or story summary. This is a longer version of the first two, ideally half a page and single-spaced. It is used to produce a one-page sell sheet, along with the logline as an attention getter and with a very short writing-related bio. This will go in the proposal. The editor will take this to a project committee to try to get it accepted for publication.

An agent, editor, or publicist can write this, but ideally the best person to write it is the book’s author, the one who lived with the story from the ground up. A person trying to create it based on a brief read will surely not come up with as strong of an effort as the author.

Finally, we have the synopsis itself. A two- to three-page, single-spaced synopsis gives the main points of the story, including the ending or plot resolution. This is not a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, which may be required by a few editors. Editors reading a proposal may read a synopsis first before reading the writing itself, read it after reading sample writing, or not use it at all (but it should always be provided).

Some submission guidelines require the synopsis to be longer; regardless, always follow the submission guidelines.

Even though these elements are presented in this order, they are often produced in a reverse order, boiling down the story to get the synopsis, boiling down the synopsis to get the short synopsis or story summary, boiling down that to get the elevator pitch or cover copy, and reducing it further to get the logline.

To give our work the best chance of success, the author of the work needs to give these tools to the agent, editor, or publicist to give them the best chance of advancing the work to its final conclusion. It is critical to craft them to the best of our ability.


Survival Guide