Getting Published

ACFW Advice, Agents, tips, writing Leave a Comment

By Terry Burns
Hartline Literary

There’s a concept we need to get a handle on, “Publishing isn’t a selection process . . . it is a survival process.”

Really?- Yes, I believe the biggest secret to publishing is the ability to get the RIGHT PRODUCT to the RIGHT PERSON at the RIGHT PLACE at exactly the RIGHT TIME. There are bestseller quality manuscripts that will never be published because the only person who can write them never makes this elusive connection. They give up.

You see, the odds on all four of these ingredients being in place when we make a submission is not good, so even if we are pitching a wonderful project it is going to miss on one of these a lot of the time. That’s when we hear the dreaded “Sorry, not a fit for us at the present time.”

We all know some books that were printed that we wonder about. The main reason for that is that it was the right subject and it hit the person, place and time. Maybe we send a much better book on the same topic right after it has been purchased and is on its way to press. Since ours is much better they’ll stop the presses and do ours instead, right?

Wrong, that ship has sailed. Hitting all four of these correctly is the whole game, miss any one of the four and it’s probably NO SALE, no matter how good the manuscript is. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle that has several dozen pieces, and if one is missing the puzzle can’t be finished – which means publishing doesn’t happen. MOST OF THE TIME these pieces are not all there. At any given time our project may only fit one place in the whole publishing industry. We’re hunting that elusive place where all the pieces fit. Of course, a couple of months later it may fit at only one place but that place be a completely different one. It’s like taking archery practice while somebody is out there constantly moving the target.

So, how do we improve the odds? How do we rule out sending to the wrong places? How do we give our manuscript a better shot when it gets there? I believe it means being brutally honest about our work, and about how it is going to be looked at. This is no place for rose-colored glasses or unrealistic optimism. Sometimes we have trouble really hearing feedback we get on our project because we think we pretty well have it nailed, but do we?

Or does it need some work in order to be the “right product”? Have we really done the research necessary to insure we are sending to the “right person” at the “right place”? If we have, then telling them what we found out that makes us feel it to be true is very valuable in a pitch.

Then finally is our pitch itself helping or hurting us? Does it present us as a seasoned professional? (even if we aren’t we should look like one) If you need a little help on your pitch or your proposal I do have a book on the topic entitled “A Writer’s Survival Guide to Publication” that can walk you through the process a point at a time. You can find it at Amazon or in the bookstore at my website at – or there are a number of other good books on the subject.

Terry Burns is an agent with Hartline Literary as well as writing inspirational fiction. As a writer he has over 40 books in print including 10 novels. A popular speaker at workshops across the country, a bookstore of his available works as well as a regular blog can be found at As an agent Terry says “I’m looking for a good book, well written in a unique voice, aimed at a market that looks promising, and where I feel I have the contacts appropriate to be able to sell the book in that market. I’m pretty open as to genre but I don’t do children’s books, sci fi or fantasy. He’s a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR).

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