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 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.

Are traditional books on their way out? Probably. But if so, when?

Scribes sitting in dark rooms, transcribing books and writings finally went away, but it took how long? The Gutenberg press was invented about 1441, and the Chinese had a printing press as early as 593, so it took thousands of years for the handwritten version to cease.

The paperback book was supposed to kill the hardback. The price disparity alone was enough to do it, right? No, hardbacks continue to sell and will do so as long as libraries and textbooks exist and as long as enough people prefer them. The paperback turned out to be a new but separate market.

But then came audiobooks, and surely no one would want either version of the printed word if all they have to do is sit and listen to someone read to them. Truck drivers, vision-impaired people, and traveling salesmen embraced this technology eagerly, but again it was a separate market and did not affect the other two.

We’ve seen the advent of DVDs, and who would read a book when they can watch a movie of it right in their own houses. Actually, many people want to read the book that a movie is based on, either before or after they see it. Different markets.

Now it is digital and e-readers, the ability to have hundreds of books with you all the time. After the reader makes the initial device investment, the e-books are cheaper than and will likely rival the mass-market paperback price.

I predicted a number of years ago that the e-book would not take off until a reader base was trained to read them and be comfortable with them. I thought it would be when textbooks

got so expensive that the electronic media would be the obvious solution. I’m starting to see some school systems switching to e-media, but it turns out that readers started getting comfortable with the devices without that happening. E-books and “real” books are different markets, and while e-books may have had some impact on the print markets, each market continues to be strong.

We haven’t seen the last of changes within the book industry. The hallmark of our generation is exploding technology. More and better innovations will find its place. But every time this subject comes up, some people say they still prefer to go off with a cup of coffee or chocolate and enjoy a printed book. A major portion of my job is to read material submitted to me on my computer. I wish I had more time to read for pleasure than I do. But the fact remains that if I am reading for pleasure, I like to curl up with a book, though for convenience I will read them electronically.

Will printed books go the way of the handwritten scrolls? Maybe someday. Will it take a couple of thousand years? I don’t know, but if it does, I expect the Lord will have come back for us before that time, so the question is academic. I am pretty sure it isn’t going to happen in my lifetime, although as writers it behooves us to keep up with the developing media and to take steps to get products into it. Regardless what that medium is, people will be needed to produce the stories to fill it.