Interview by Alex Mellen (PWR class of 2014)
I worked as a volunteer proofreader and final reader for two small publishing houses, and I was a reviewer for an online romance site.
Terry Burns [author and former Hartline agent] asked me to work with him as his editorial assistant. I loved it! Now, I absolutely adore finding not good but great stories to take to publishers in the hope that they will see the same awesome story and publish it!
What exactly does an agent do?
More than most folks realize. But I’ll give you Agenting 101. Agents are very much like the publisher’s filter. We weed through the piles of submissions to find those few nuggets of gold. In reality, that’s probably 2 to 3 percent of the submissions on a good day that we think we might be able to work with and that we think we might have a connection for at a publishing house. Then we have to compare those to our other authors to be sure we aren’t already handling a similar project with one of our clients. Then we make a guesstimate of how much time will be needed to get any material ready to go out. We take into consideration the writer’s platform, not only for nonfiction, but fiction as well. Then, if we decide we want to work with this particular client, we offer the writer a contract which outlines everything that we will do for them.
Once their work is ready, we begin to send their well-worked proposals out to publishers to see if they might be interested. If they are, we negotiate a contract, all the while looking out for the writer’s interest. Then, later, we keep track to be sure they are being paid correctly, and that they stay on top of their deadlines. These are just some of things that an agent does for his or her client, but probably the best known.
Tell us more about the Hartline Literary Agency.
Hartline is one of the most established literary agencies serving the Christian market. It now works in the general market, as well. They are family-owned and do their best to make a client feel like part of that family. Their authors have won Christys, Willas, Carols, Ritas, and many other prestigious awards.
Why are agents essential for writers to have?
They know the market. They know who they should and should not approach with projects. They also know, and this is very important, whether or not projects are ready for submission. Too often a writer gets overly excited, too soon, and simply isn’t ready to go forward with their submissions.
What kinds of material are you hoping to acquire?
I love fiction, first and foremost. I look at some nonfiction, but fiction is my first love.
What makes a writer’s manuscript stand out to you?
The first page! Something had better happen on that first page to keep me turning pages.
You’ve written a few novels yourself. How does that experience help you relate to writers and increase their chances of getting published?
Oh, well, I know how it feels to bleed on a page. I know how painful it is to put my work into someone else’s hands, trusting they will do well by me.
Your two conference topics are about romance and gender dialogue. What do you like about these subjects, and what made you want to teach about them?
I like to teach the gender topic because I read so many romance novels where the man is a giant wimp. No way would the romantic lead in a story think and talk the way some of them do. And that led me to a brainstorming session with my son, yes, he’s a military alpha—lol—and he was able to help me get inside a man’s head, as much as any man will allow. So I learned a lot and wanted to help female writers who write males, and male writers who have to write females, to understand some of the typical differences!
Can you give an example of this?
Let’s think of a serious alpha male military character who finds himself falling in love. His internal dialogue MUST reflect who he is, not who the AUTHOR’s voice is. For example: I’m so in love with Jamie Leigh that my heart’s pitter-patting in my chest. Her cornflower blue eyes make me wanna sing and dance with joy, gosh darn it. I’d love to run my fingers through her silky, coppery curls. Ah, yes, the good life. A sweet woman to be part of my walk down a road of absolute happiness. Gee, I’m a happy camper!
Yeah . . . no! Not gonna be believable. A guy is still a guy. An alpha male, even more so. The outward dialogue as well as internal MUST be the gender’s voice, not the author’s. Tough one to learn but so doable with a little practice.
Linda will be teaching two workshops:
Ahh, ma cherie, come fly away weeth me! (Writing Romance)
He said. She said. Oh my! (Gender and Dialog)