Beyond the Smoke

Hartline Literary Agency represents fiction and non-fiction books to leading inspirational and mainline publishers. Over the years, we have built valuable working relationships with editors, which help us guide your work toward the most appropriate markets. We currently represent many award-winning authors, and we seek to add both published and promising new authors to our client list. If we recognize potential in your work we will do our best to give it the exposure and attention it deserves. Our core strength is representing inspirational fiction and non-fiction books for adults. We do not market children's books, short fiction, screenplays, scripts, poetry, or magazine articles. We represent most genres in inspirational or commercial fiction except science fiction and fantasy. Visit us at

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Answers From The Agents

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. We’d love to hear from you.

Why do agents ask for so much in their submission guidelines? ~ Answered by Joyce Hart

Joyce Hart

We have to know who you are as a person; we need to know something of your education and your background. Have you been published? Do you have a platform? Then we want to know what you are willing to do to promote the book. Are you willing to spend some money to get this book out, are you on Facebook, do you attend writer’s conferences, and do you know what your competition is? We need to see a good summary of the book, one that tells the whole story and doesn’t leave questions about the plot. Finally, we need three chapters to see your writing. If you are a first-time author, the whole manuscript must be available if we request it.

The bottom line is we’re asking from you what the editor asks from us. We tailor our guidelines to reflect the guidelines of most publishers. The competition is tough, and if you want to be published, you will have to offer a well-prepared proposal.

Are manuscripts over 120,000 words an automatic rejection? ~ Answered by Terry Burns

Terry Burns

In a word, yes. Most publishers want in the 80,000 to 100,000 word range. They have a template for their product and like to be within the range they request in their submission guidelines. Every 10,000 words a project is over their submission guidelines represents a 10 percent increase in production costs, not something they are favorable about doing for an author who does not have an established reader base. This is particularly the case when they are getting other projects that are good and well written and do not require the increased investment.

Why are publishers so fussy about word count? ~ Answered by Tamela Hancock Murray.

Tamela Hancock Murray

Authors are a creative bunch, and it can be frustrating to discover you need to add a new plot thread to take a 70,000 word story to 80,000, or to cut 20,000 words to meet a shorter count.

Doesn’t the story matter? Of course it does, but publishers have to consider marketing your book, so they have to be fussy about word count.

Terry’s answer about why most 120,000 word books are automatically rejected offers insight into publishing expenses. I also offer that consistency is important, as well. If you own a number of books in a series, take Nancy Drew for example, look on the shelf. Do you see how each book is almost identical in size? This is because readers of this series expected a certain length and price point. Most authors end up writing at least three books for a series, and their readers also expect a certain length and price point.

Do you want to write for a publisher who distributes a large number of books through a book club and then through stores? They have a set price they charge club members, and again, the books must be consistent from month to month with what their customers expect. Just as you can’t expect them to indulge you with paying for an overly long book to send to readers, you must be fair to readers by writing as many words as they expect. No matter what the overall economy, readers want value for their dollar.

What percentage of manuscripts submitted to you do you take? ~ Answered by Diana Flegal

Diana Flegal

It is getting harder and harder for someone to get added to my list. Nonfiction is pretty much platform driven, since that is what the editors are expressing to me. Even if I am especially fond of a nonfiction title, I cannot take it on if the author does not have a way of personally promoting and selling a good number of their books.

It’s hard for new authors to break into fiction, with pure romance being the genre with a wider slot open on my list. The writing has to be stellar and practically camera ready.