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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What Makes a Best Seller?

What makes a best seller? A major effort? Luck?

I’ve heard this discussed a lot and it is hard to say.

There are several major paths to a traditionally published book becoming a best seller.

First, the most common path is the book is by a previous best-selling author. There is a huge readership base, and the author really has to drop the ball for the book to fail to achieve best-seller status. In addition, based on the track record of the previous books, the publishing house throws major advertising, promotion, and the full distribution and placement support behind the title. Occasionally a book fails to live up to this promise, and all of the publisher’s support does not get the job done.

Second, an author, regardless of the strength of the writing, has so much name recognition and such a huge platform that the book has major potential. Presidents, politicians, major sports figures, and other celebrities fit into this category. Once again, based on this potential, the publishing house throws major advertising, promotion, and the full distribution and placement support behind the title. And sometimes this does not work, so in spite of the huge name identification, the public does not respond in the desired numbers.

Third, publishers can decide when they acquire a book that it is going to be a best seller. The editor who acquires the manuscript takes it into committee and convinces the PR people, the marketing people, and the company leadership that the book has the potential to become a best seller. Even though it is a debut author who does not have a large platform, the publishing house decides the book justifies the time and money and puts major advertising, promotion, and the full distribution and placement support behind the title. Yet again, in spite of the faith and confidence of the publisher this does not always work.

Fourth, even if the publisher has not pegged the title as a potential best seller and the author does not have name identification, the author may generate so much word-of-mouth publicity, or buzz, and may pursue several avenues of publicity and promotion that the book becomes a best seller. Even if a publisher has not planned major support for a title, it will respond when a book attracts notice and will

begin to match or exceed author efforts. There generally isn’t a large number of authors who achieve this, but it can work, and again ends up with the publisher putting advertising, promotion, distribution and placement behind the title. On occasion a book starts producing so strongly in a small house that a major house comes into the situation, taking the efforts to a whole new level. That’s what happened with The Shack.

So, is it luck? Yes, I’d have to say some luck might be involved.

For Christian authors is it something ordained by God and beyond our control? No. Ordained by God, yes, but the Lord works through people. If God wants it to happen, it will, as long as we do what He needs us to do in the process.

Do publishers decide what books will be best sellers, or not? Both yes and no. If I am correct in my assumptions, it is very difficult to reach best-seller status without a publisher that believes in the book and throws its support behind it.


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