Agent Advice: Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency

This installment features literary agent Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency, who specializes in Christian/inspirational fiction, nonfiction and all subgenres therein.
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“Agent Advice”(this installment featuring agent Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agents.

This installment features literary agent Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency, who specializes in Christian/inspirational fiction, nonfiction and all subgenres therein.

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: What's the most recent thing you've sold? (author, publisher, title, anything notable?)

JH: I have received four book contracts from Baker/Revell in the last few weeks - Jillian Dare, by Melanie Jeschke (romance); a three-book contract, Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot (historical); Journey to the Well, by Diana Taylor (Biblical fiction); and Kiss Me You Fool (nonfiction), by David E. Clarke, Ph.D. Also, I've sold a gift book recently, The Good Master by Linda Winn to Thos. Nelson Publishers.

GLA: I originally thought that Hartline leaned mostly toward inspirational and Christian titles, but the Web site makes it look like that's just one small part of the agency. What percentage of what you work on is in the religious market?

JH: We'll need to change that wording on the website. We primarily sell to the religious market. We do sell to the general market, but CBA is our main focus.

GLA: In a nonfiction submission, you look for a lot of information on the
market analysis, the competition, the marketing plan, etc. When you look at proposals, what are the most common things you see lacking that need to be fleshed out?

JH: The most common thing that is lacking is the author's bio. I need to know his/her life experience, education and why this author is qualified to write this book. The publishers want to know prior sales figures. Most authors do pretty well with the competition and the marketing plan. They have a little trouble with the market analysis and the sales figures.

GLA: When selling nonfiction, platform is a big deal. You look for platform also with fiction writers, as well. Why so? Will that affect your decision to sign a new client?

JH: Almost without fail, the editors/publishers are looking for authors with a platform. Also, as I mentioned, sales figures are crucial. In fiction, there are a few who are willing to take a chance on a new author, most major publishers are not. All editors tell me that if the writing is stellar, they will look at it regardless.

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GLA: What are some new areas (or "sub-genres") of inspirational writing that are coming into their own?

JH: Fiction romance is a little larger than it was; romantic suspense and mystery/thrillers are popular. Science fiction and fantasy are doing a little better than previously. A few publishers are looking at cozy mysteries. For inspirational nonfiction, it's pretty much the same: Christian living, prayer, self-help.

GLA: If someone wants to query Hartline and could, in theory, query multiple agents, how is the best way to handle that?

JH: We prefer that they only query one of our agents at a time. We'd like the author to look at our Web site and the bios of our agents and choose the one that they feel best fits their writing. We often will pass a proposal to another agent if we feel it is good, but not what that particular agent is looking for at that time.

GLA: Will you be at any conferences in the future where writers can meet you?

JH: Yes, I will be at the following upcoming conferences:

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice concerning something we haven't covered?

JH: We like to see really good proposals, done according to our guidelines. Authors tell me this is the hardest part of writing a book. However, it is so very important. We only get one chance to submit to editors and we need to catch their attention with our submissions. The bio is very important, also the summary. We need to know who the author is and get a clear picture of the book.

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