Wednesday, May 25, 2011

with Hartline Agent Terry Burns

The Barn Door Book Loft. Free Books! Book Giveaways.

It's Hartline week here at The Book Loft! All of this week's books were contracted by Hartline Literary. Enjoy!

Welcome to The Book Loft, Terry! It's an honor to have you with us.
What led you to Hartline Literary?

I was a client of Joyce’s for several years but had a tendency to make contacts and initiate deals myself plus help a number of my friends publish. That led Joyce to decide to try me in the agent role.

How did your past prepare you for what you currently do?
I was a chamber of commerce executive for nearly 30 years, helping business people develop their businesses and make deals. I discovered that being an agent was practically the same process.

Do you have a certain genre or even writing style you like to represent or a sweet spot in the industry that you find yourself returning to?
For me it’s about the story and the quality of the writing, a book I just can’t put down. A unique story in a unique voice. But even then it needs to have a clear market that I can see and feel like I have the right contacts to get it into that market.

What is it in a story that catches your attention?
I want a story to make me feel something, sad, happy, laugh, cry, genuine emotion.

Are there things you do NOT want to see? How about things you're looking for?
I don’t handle profanity or graphic sex or violence. I know that stuff sells but I don’t have to be part of putting more of it out there.

What's your least favorite and most favorite part of being an agent?
Most favorite is helping launch new authors. Least favorite is having to tell so many people that I just can’t help them. But I know going in that I can only take a small percentage of what is being sent to me, most of them good books, and it is all about looking for those exceptional books that stand out from all of the other good books I get to see.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. What do you see as one of your strengths as an agent?
I came from the writing side of the equation as opposed to the publishing side. I probably communicate more with my clients than many other agents do. It also gives me a heart for trying to launch new authors and I am usually listed up at the top of the list of agents getting debut books in print.

Tell us about the process of how you choose authors to represent.
I work a little different than a lot of other agents, even in my own agency as I use a group of editorial assistants to work up projects and make recommendations. I go through first and respond to those that are clearly not a fit, but like other opinions on those I am considering. By the time I get a recommendation it also includes places we might take the project or if there don’t seem to be any places we could go with it in our database. It helps me work more submissions more effectively.

Do you have some words for unagented writers?
Patience may be as important as skill in becoming a good writer. Too many people have unrealistic expectations and get discouraged before they have time to develop as a writer.

What is one question you wish someone would ask you and your answer to it?
"You said it takes an exceptional book to stand out from other books, what makes a book exceptional?" My answer would be that we often do a good job writing a story, then we do a good job of editing that story or getting it edited and we think we are through. That process is what produces a good book. Exceptional comes when we take the third step and DIRECT the book like a movie director insuring that the reader is forced off the first page, hooked into the story by page ten, pushed from chapter to chapter. We insure the rise and fall of the story is there as it should be without dead spots. In other words, once we have the story we must turn out attention to pacing and flow. In my opinion that is the major difference between a good story and an exceptional story.

Terry, word is that your hat is magic. It's not a typical magician's hat, so what's magical about it? How has it played into what you do now?

People do not know that I am a leprechaun (we grow them bigger in Texas), and yes, the hat is magic. Actually I am rather shy and though I live in cattle country and like to dress western I do take it up a notch when I am “getting into character” to do my job. I have become identified with it now to the point where people ask about it if they come into a room and I don’t have it on.

I've learned much from you, Terry. Thank you for being with us this week and for offering A Writer's Survival Guide to Publication as a giveaway.
You can purchase A Writer's Survival Guide to Publication here.

To be entered in the book drawing for A Writer's Survival Guide to Publication, leave a comment on any and all of the Spot on PEAs posts this week. Winner will be announced on June 15th.

If you have trouble leaving a comment, you can email your comment to me at Patty {at} PattyWysong {dot}com.


Lisa Lickel said...

Hi, Terry - just wanted to drop by and say glad the BarnDoor found you! It's a great fit. Thanks for being a little outside the lines for the literary agent side of you. Clarity helps those who would apply.

Don't enter me, Patty - I helped edit this book, and it's pretty good if I do say so...

Joanne Sher said...

I love this post. Great to get to know Terry better.

Anonymous said...

Good interview. This sounds
like an excellent book!

Julie Arduini said...

I enjoy his work and these posts!

Meredith said...

Great post. And great advice for new writers (Patience!).

meredithfl at gmail dot com

Dee Yoder said...

Thank you for interviewing my favorite agent, Patty! I'm a new client with Terry and I appreciate his gentle manner. And, thanks, Terry, for letting us in on your Leprechaun secret.

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