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Hartline Literary

Meet the Hartline Agents Pet Peeves

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Joyce Hart

Joyce Hart –CEO and Agent

What I’m looking for in fiction is Romance, Women’s fiction, girlfriend stories, mystery/suspense, Romantic suspense, comedy, historical, except for Civil War era... No sci fi or speculative fiction unless it is so well written it blows me away. First and foremost is romance, both formula, written with Steeple Hill in mind, and non-formula written with other publishers in mind. I’d like to see mostly character driven stories, with characters that I will fall in love with and care about; characters that will stick with me even when I’ve finished the book. Series are good, but I will look at single titles as well. Stellar writing, well thought out plots, researched well for accuracy in the location of the story. Well prepared proposals, check out the guidelines on our web site. Branding is a good move for any author. Published authors are very welcomed, however, all of the agents at Hartline have helped many first-time authors get a start in publishing.

Non-fiction is tough, simply because the editors want authors with a platform and expertise in what they are writing about. We’ll look at how-to, health issues, family, marriage, parenting, prayer, spiritual growth, and devotionals, Published authors are nice, stellar writing is essential.

No YA or children’s books, adult fiction and non-fiction only.

My pet peeves: Probably much like our other agents. Proposals that are not well prepared. If you send them via e-mail make sure everything is in one big file. We can’t open numerous files, it’s too time consuming. Besides, when we send the proposal to the editors, that’s the format they need to be in. Again, look at our guidelines. A summary and a bio in the body of the e-mail is needed. I don’t open attachments without information about the author in the e-mail.

I get frustrated when I get a query with no bio. Ideas are great, but we need to know who you are and why you are qualified to write the book. Look at our web site; don’t send us books that we are not remotely interested in seeing.

My qualifications: 30 years in the Christian Bookselling industry. Former VP of Marketing at Whitaker House Publishing. Well known and respected in the industry. Avid reader all of my life. In pastoral ministry with my husband all of our married life. Graduate of Open Bible College in Des Moines, IA. The college is now merged with Eugene Bible College in Eugene, OR.


Tamela Hancock MurrayTamela Hancock Murray is interested in reviewing a variety of CBA fiction and nonfiction, and she specializes in romance, romantic suspense and historical fiction. Tamela will work with unpublished authors. She seeks authors who are familiar with the market so they can write CBA-friendly books.

Authors should think about how to make the age-old romance story new and fresh for today's readers. Contemporary stories should be up to date, but not too dated. Trendy brand names may limit the appeal of a contemporary story because a year from now, today's hot product may seem old-fashioned. For example, how long is the latest and greatest cell phone model considered to be the latest and greatest? I'd say three to six months, tops. Brand names will also cause readers to react to characters, perhaps in undesirable ways the author doesn't intend. The more timeless a contemporary story, the better.

Authors of historical fiction should have a passion for their selected time period. Readers of historical novels enjoy learning facts as they read, so keep this in mind. They want to be taken to another time and place, a time when life had different challenges than we do today, and watch characters overcome internal and external obstacles that may be unique to their time period.

Amish and Mennonite fiction continues to be popular. When writing this type of story, accuracy is key. In my experience, people who grew up around or in these communities and have a love for these people find the most success with stories about these groups. Authors new to these groups need to invest the time needed to learn as much about their chosen group as possible before tackling a story.

My pet peeves are emails that aren't addressed to me personally, emails sent en masse to lots of agents, and emails with attachments only. I prefer to see a query letter in the body of the email so I can have an idea about an author's work before

opening an attachment. What I appreciate is hearing from writers who have been recommended by someone I'm already working with, as their opinions carry great weight with me.

I look forward to hearing from any author who'd like to work with me!


Diana FlegalDiana Flegal says I prefer non fiction titles a bit over fiction but love a really well written literary novel. I work the ABA market and am getting to know a few editors well there. I do not want children’s books or any childrens under the YA age. I want inspirational writing that does not conflict with the Biblical worldview.

Pet peeve, I have more than one: -):

1) When an author does not check out our web site and individual information and sends me a submission that is inappropriate or I do not handle.

2) When an author ignores our submission guidelines and has not prepared a decent proposal, even after I have asked or taken the time to explain what I want.

3) When an author submits to all of Hartline's agents at once instead of choosing one of us.

4) When an author has an unrealistic time frame of how things move through the process of submissions to editors.

5) My biggest peeve is when an author tells me "God told me you are supposed to be my agent." I run from those...

Diana currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pa., where she works as Editorial Assistant to Joyce Hart, owner and founder of Hartline Literary Agency. A Bible College major in Missions and Anthropology, Diana has been a medical missionary to Haiti and a women's speaker and bible study leader, creating her own women's study material. One of her life's highlights has been teaching apologetics to high school students as preparatory for college. An avid reader and gifted editor, Diana represents non-fiction and well written fiction. She has a passion for getting great writers published.


Terry BurnsTerry Burns has been with the Hartline agency for the last three years and has a substantial list of clients, a growing list of credits, and a reputation for presenting to conferences all over the country (see programs at Terry's Program Page). Listed as number three on the Publisher’s Marketplace list of agents successful in helping debut authors to publish, Terry comes from a writing background, has more than thirty books in print, and is a graduate of West Texas State with post-graduate work at Southern Methodist University. He tries to run a paperless office, so he doesn’t take hard-copy submissions. Terry is a native Texan living in Amarillo, Texas.

He says: I agree on the above pet peeves and can particularly add to the list that those who do not check submission guidelines to see what to send and how to send it bother me the most. When I say I don’t take hard-copy submissions and receive them anyway, the submission doesn’t get off on the right foot.

I looking for a really well-written book represented by a professional-looking proposal that is a single document and contains all of the material we request. If it is something that is a fit for the markets I’m working in and I feel like I have the right contacts to get it into that market, then we’ve got grounds for a partnership.

I’ve been placing nonfiction, mystery/suspense, historical romance, and other romance, and young adult (but not children’s books), but I don’t work in sci-fi and fantasy, except maybe in the YA category. Other genres interest me, and I’d love to sell some Westerns, but right now that market is pretty much taken up by the established writers who have been producing Western titles for years.

Although I’ve had success in getting debut authors published, I can’t have all debut authors, and I’m particularly interested in writers with a track record who are looking to grow their careers. Hartline is more interested in growing the writer than in just selling a book.