Monday, September 21, 2015

new website

My personal website has a new look.

My daughter, Teri Burns, owner of updated and streamlined it now that I don't have clients to showcase there or agent information and links to show. The same link now goes to the new page or it also has a link where the site is actually located among the websites that she manages. She did a nice job on it and we are still tweaking it. It is one of the author services that she offers to writer clients that want to contract with her for assistance.

I am retiring, but still may do a little consulting for writers under the umbrella of Lone Mesa and maybe help her with a little overflow work. It's like trying to quit smoking, I can't really quit "cold turkey."

I'm going to put an auto-respond on my Hartline email address to keep me from having to send the same message to all the submissions that continue to come in, to point them to the agency submission guidelines and to point out the contact information for the other Hartline agents.

Technically I am still on board through the end of October but I have ceased to do many of the functions and I am taking the time to wrap things up. Yes, I told agent friends that I know I am under no obligation to help clients find a new home, but they are more than clients, they are friends. So I am doing what I can to help them make the transition.

The new header on the website is going to go up on my personal facebook page as well at  My author facebook page at Teri also handles but it got a facelift recently and is not being impacted right now.

Yes, I do plan to see if I can still write and plan to work through Lone Mesa for that endeavor as well. I favor what my Western writer friends call "Christian westerns" that a log of my female readers do like but which will hopefully reach out to male readers, particularly nonbelievers.

So I'm in the midst of a lot of change and covet your prayers, but I am still here at the same old email addresses. Just another chapter in the unfolding saga of my life.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Time to Retire

I retired from a career in chamber of commerce management after more than 25 years service.

I retired from working with a community service organization after more than ten years service.

I’ve been with Hartline for over ten years, seven as an agent. After much prayer and discussion my wife and I have decided it is time to retire yet again.

It’s not been an easy decision to make. I have a great group of clients that are together in an online group where we talk daily. They are more than clients, they are good friends. Doing this agent gig has been something of a mission effort for me. I have had a heart for trying to help debut Christian writers get started, whatever it took. Seeing them get their work out has been very satisfying. Of course focusing on debut writers has not been very rewarding financially, but that was a decision I made.

I’ve seen a number of clients move on to other things after I helped them get started.

But it has required a huge investment of time and effort as well as a lot of stress. To tell the truth even though I will miss it, making the decision brought an immediate feeling of relief. I told Joyce it would be effective November first which will give me a couple of months to wrap things up and to try and help my clients get placed elsewhere. A number of them will be picked up by other Hartline agents.

I owe Joyce a debt of gratitude for helping me get started as a writer, serving as my agent. Further she allowed me the opportunity to be an agent myself. I’m very grateful for her help and for her believing in me.

I am going ahead and making the announcement this far ahead to keep people from continuing to submit to me when I am no longer taking submissions. For much of the time I have been working in this role I have attended a couple of conferences a month and received thousands of submissions allowing me to meet quite a large number of writers in person or on paper.  It is an amazing thing having friends spread all over this country. It has been a real blessing.

My daughter and a couple of my clients are hosting a “virtual retirement party” over on my facebook page. Leave a comment here or drop by there and sign the “virtual guest book.”

God bless you all . . .


Saturday, August 1, 2015


We have coffee each morning out on the front porch. Usually a neighbor or two come join us. We kinda line out our day to get the most out of it. If the wind dictates we often do back deck instead. Usually we watch the sun come up out there.

Front or back deck I see the things that need to be done while I'm sitting there and the priorities of what I have to do often get re-arranged. If I am going to do something outside I have to start early and finish mid-morning when it starts getting very hot.

The things that need to be done are a distraction from what I need to do as an agent or writer. Necessary, or it will entirely get away from me, but a distraction. This morning I was aware of how many distractions there are vying for my time. Our kids have grown up and gone so I can't claim that one, but we have two dogs that demand a lot of attention and care.

Facebook, twitter and other social media are a distraction and we talk about that a lot . . . generally on facebook or twitter. Some degree of interaction there is a necessity but do we spend too much time there, or in the task of promoting ourselves and getting our name out there, too little? Interesting question and one we talk about a lot.

Then there's the list. You know, THE list. Honey-dos, things that need to be done that I don't want to forget but are not as important as something else on my plate at the time. Priorities on this list seem to constantly shift as things are moved forward or back in relation to other things. A lot of things would fall through the cracks without this list but it is always there, nagging me, demanding time.

The world is a big distraction. What is happening in our country and the world at large is hard to ignore. But we can control the amount of time that we allow it to intrude on our thinking.

I have responsibilities to the family, to church, to friends and neighbors and along with responsibilities come tasks and demands on my time. My in-box is a distraction and has to be dealt with, but it is also an important link to my clients and what I need to be doing for them. Most of the time they all need something, and priortizing who to work on can be quite a problem.

It can take a full day to work up a submission, go through my publisher database and get submissions out on a client. With sixty clients that would seem to suggest taking two months to work my way through, but as with other things, nothing is quite that simple. External forces and industry communications can force a client to the top of the list or away from it.

There are submissions coming in from people who would like me to represent their work. How long each of them takes depends on how long it takes to come to a decision as to whether it is a fit for me or not. Yes, I do respond to each one, momma raised me to be courteous.

There's a lot more but you get the idea. All of these forces pulling on me, decisions to be made on the allocation of my time. All of this makes me . . . well . . . normal.

We all have things competing for our time. In fact it is an old saying that "Life expands to fill available time." We just have to be smart about how we do the allocating so that time gets applied to what is most important to us.

How about it? What are the demands on your time? We have 24 hours a day to spend and there won't be any more made available. Are we truly spending it on what is important to us?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July. We're going to have people over, and Sunday will be involved in a patriotic choir program at church. Should be a good weekend. But in the midst of all that it has me thinking. This nation was founded by God-fearing men who spent as much time on their knees as they did debating the formation of the new government.

So much is happening in our country today that I can hardly recognize it. As we celebrate the birthday of our nation we should take a moment to be grateful to those founding fathers, and to all of those who have put their lives on the line over the years to protect that freedom.The future of our nation is now in our hands. As we celebrate the 4th, join me in praying for the future of our nation.

And have a great holiday weekend.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

finding writing time

When I get out of school I'll have time to write.

When I get settled in this job I'll have spare time to write.

When the kids get older . . .

When the kids don't have all these extracurricular activities . . .

When the kids leave home . . .

When I retire . . .

When . . .when . . . when

We have to face it, there is no such thing as time to write. Why? Because life expands to fill the time available. There will always be something competing for our available time.

Writing time has to be carved out and jealously protected. Ideally, loved ones understand what we are trying to do and help us in this process. My wife, my kids, my parents, the people in my life played a big role in what I have been able to write over the years. When I went into the study and closed the door they knew what that meant.

These days I don't get to write much, not what I would like to write, and I miss it. Pretty much all of my available time is dedicated to working for my clients. I made that conscious decision some time ago, that I could serve the Lord better by helping get a number of Christian books out than I could by doing one or two myself. I haven't regretted that decision.

But I still miss it. Maybe I haven't been taking my own advice. I'm going to carve out some time and do a little writing again.

How about you? Are you one of those forever complaining that you can't find the time to write? One of those waiting for some point in your life when you feel like the time will suddenly appear? Or are you carving it out, setting it aside and jealously protecting it.

Writing time simply does not exist . . . it has to be made.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

It's just a proposal

Giving a workshop on making submissions a number of the writers there admitted to just "throwing stuff into proposal" to flesh out what it called for. I mean, it's just a proposal, right? The main thing is for the writing to be really good.

Actually no, better than 80% of all submissions are rejected without a word of the writing being read. WHAT? That can't be, you say?

You see whether they admit it to themselves or not, most agents and editors know that any submission they are looking at will not work for them. They aren't being negative, the numbers tell them that. They are looking at dozens, for many even hundreds of submissions for a painfully few available slots. The time pressure is great so they just read until they find the 'no fit' point where they can respond that it won't work for them and move on.

That 'no fit' point probably comes in reading the proposal. Something in it tells them that the project won't work for them and chances are that is the point where they quit reading. It may come as early as the subject line of the email or the cover letter.

A successful submission does depend on the quality of the writing, but to get to that point we have to survive our way through the reading of the proposal and be one of the few manuscripts left on the desktop at the end set aside for reading. The 80% number sounds very discouraging, but what that means is we are only up against the 15-20% of the writers that are doing it right. Pretty good odds.

So the writing does have to be stellar,  but every piece of the proposal tells whoever is reviewing the submission something important. The cover letter grabs their attention and lures them into reading the proposal. The author bio shows we are serious about writing. The comparables serve to identify our reader base in terms an agent or editor can identify with. The marketing information tells them we have a plan to sell books and that can be vital. The writing same includes the most critical part of the whole manuscript. Does the first page have a hook that forces the reader to turn the page? Is the reader invested in the story by page ten? Does each chapter push the reader on to the following one? Most acquisition people can accurately determine if the whole project will work for them or not just on the strength of this sample.

Just a proposal? If the proposal isn't crafted so it will do it's job, the actual writing may not get a chance to show its worth. I know there are some exceptional projects that slip through just because the author did not present it properly to get it the full consideration. It's just how it works.

You can add to that the fact that the proposal is the tool we use to sell the project if we decide to take it on. That means we are looking at every one of them and asking "Can I use this to sell this project?" Initially the proposal is more important that the manuscript itself.

I don't mind losing out, either on a submission of my own or on one for a client if the submission makes to to the stack on the desk to be read. If I do that means somebody just wrote a better book, and I'm good with that. But I don't want to lose out because I failed to present a proposal that got the job done to get that manuscript considered.

None of us want that.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Agents are crooks?

The man was giving a program to a writer’s conference. He was making the case that literary agents were a bunch of crooks who seize ownership of a manuscript and do nothing of value with it that the author couldn’t do themselves. Each to their own opinion, but had I been there I would have felt obliged to clear up a couple of points.

First, at no time does an agent EVER have ownership of an author’s project. We negotiate a deal on the client’s behalf but the final decision as to whether they sign a contract with a publisher to grant certain rights to them is strictly up to the author. The agent never has ownership of the rights.

Second, at each of the conferences I’ve attended this year there were plenty of authors very much wanting to sign with an agent who could get them in the door of a larger house most of which are ‘agent only’ these days. If they plan to publish it themselves I would agree, no reason for them to need an agent.

Third, as he was suggesting that we charge them for basically nothing I would need to point out that we do not charge clients for what we do for them. We only make money after we have first made the client money, then we get a percentage of what we got them.

One agent said he felt like the fifteen percent commission was five percent for making a successful submission for a client, and ten percent for knowing where to make that submission. I guess you could make a case for that.

The guy has obviously not had an agent giving him career advice, holding his hand through working projects up, negotiating contracts, being an intermediary with publishers, keeping them constantly up to speed on submissions and responses, a variety of tasks we perform for clients. All done for free unless we are successful an making a sale for them.

. I don’t have a problem with someone feeling this way, it’s a free country and I never want a client who doesn’t value my services anyway. I do have a problem with him making his case to groups of writers using erroneous information however. Using such information to try and poison the minds of writers against agents . . . well, let me temper my statement and say that is not a nice thing to do.

To him I would say don’t use an agent if you don’t like them but don’t be using false information to convert other people over to your way of thinking.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is coming up.

I wore my veterans hat the last day of the conference in Colorado in recognition of it being Armed Forces Day. Some however said "I thought that was next weekend." I responded, "No, that weekend is Memorial Day."

Armed Forces Day is to recognize active serving Military personnel. Veterans Day, which comes in November is to recognize those who have served in the past, and Memorial Day recognizes those who gave all in service of their country. There can be a little confusion about the meaning of the three special days.

The Memorial Day holiday observed on the last Monday in May, originated after the civil war to honor those who died in the war. Originally known as Decoration Day, it was later extended to include all who have served and have passed on. Many use the occasion to mark family graves of all types, but the primary reason is to recognize this service.

The National Cemetery at Arlington places a small American flag at each headstone for the day, exactly one boot length from the stone. It is a very impressive sight.

The first documented observance was in Savannah Georgia in 1862 marking the graves of Confederate soldiers. The following year the cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated and the observance began to be recognized by both sides. With over 600,000 dying in the war the recognition was of major significance as there were few families untouched by the tragedy in some manner.

War is a terrible thing and there is no one who would like to see no more war than the soldier. However, no matter how we might feel about war itself we should never allow that feeling to color or detract from the honor due the brave soldiers who have stepped forward when their country called and who gave their lives in that service.

When family gathers on Memorial Day and we are cooking out or going to the park or however we choose to enjoy the weekend, let's pause for a moment and remember the true meaning of the day. Freedom is not free, and it is only right to pause and remember who paid that price for us.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

On the Road

Saundra and I just returned from the conference in Orange County California. It was a great conference and I enjoyed it very much. Heard some good pitches. We took the RV and made the trip out and back something of a vacation. We saw some really beautiful country in New Mexico and Arizona on the way out and in Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico on the way back. If you’ve ever seen the majesty of places like Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park or Monument Valley you have to be awed by the hand of our mighty Lord.

Now we turn around this coming week to go to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park Colorado. It is one of our favorites and we have gone for many years.  It is very beautiful up there too and I hope to see some of you there. It is not only a time for working on your writing craft but a time to work on your faith through program, content and introspection.

The CCWC conference has always meant I couldn’t go to the Blue Ridge Mountains Conference but my clients that have attended tell me it’s a great conference too. I wish I could go this year for sure because I have five clients who are finalists in various categories of the Selah awards which will be given at the conference. I am confident in them winning of course and wish I could be there to support them. Other agents here at Hartline have clients that are finalists as well for a total of ten finalists, so we will be well represented.

We will be in the RV again on the way to Colorado as we love the pace of the trip and seeing the countryside. That and it keeps me out of airports which I genuinely hate. We’re lucky to have someone who will sit with the house and dogs and water the garden and greenhouse as well as clients who are understanding on the time requirement which gives us the time to do it.

I have attended several conferences a year starting long before I became an agent. They played a major role in my learning the craft of writing. They gave me the contacts that led to my getting published and later led me to be able to function as an agent.  They gave me the chance to spend time with others who understood the passion for writing that people in our lives do not always get. I’ve cut back on the number I go to but for years I was going to a couple of them a month.

If you aren’t making a conference or two a part of your growth as a writer you are omitting a major part of the development of your career. I hope to see you at one soon.

Friday, April 24, 2015

writers conference

I'm getting ready to get in the RV and head to Orange County California for a Christian Writer's conference. It's the first time I have been to that one but I hear they do a nice job with it.

For years I've done a couple of conferences a month and I do prefer to drive if I can because I genuinely do hate airports. I've tried to start cutting back the last couple of years. It's not like I need to generate submissions, I get a ton of them. I can cut back on one that someone from the agency is already working but it is hard to turn down a small conference that's not too far away and needs me.

Then there is the Colorado Christian Writers Conference May 13-17th. We love that one and have gone there for many years. Marlene puts on a great conference. I'll be at the Tulsa Christian Writers May 20-30th,  Inspiration Alive in Amarillo June 11th, and Rose State College in Midwest City OK Sept 18-20th. There's a couple of others I'm not sure about, but I have cut back a bit.

I believe conferences are absolutely essential if we want to write, primarily because they are specifically designed to help us better learn our craft. More than that they give us a chance to interface with other people who really understand what we are doing and what we are going through. Having the support of family and friends is nice, but we really need times when we can interface with other writers, when we can just immerse ourselves in it for a short time.

Long before I became an agent I tried to go to a couple of conferences a year as a writer and it was invaluable to me. It is where I learned the business. There are a lot of them to choose from, some large and well attended, some regional ones that might be right in your own back yard. I mentioned the ones above because I'd love to meet you at one.

What conferences do you like to attend and when and where is it?

And if you haven't been at one, well . . . don't you think it is time that you did?