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Encouragement: From an Agent’s Point of View

by Terry Burns
Hartline Literary

The writer’s testimony that I have on my personal website comes from a time nearly 20 years ago when I was attending the conference in Glorieta NM as a writer (that’s the conference that is at the Ghost Ranch at Abique NM now). My mission was to learn what God was expecting of me in my writing and how to use my faith in my writing. A part of the process was going through an exercise intended to identify my spiritual gifts. They turned out to be music, writing, and the gift of encouragement. Some time later I felt called to use this gift of encouragement as an agent and my focus changed.

I work with clients as a means of using this gift and that’s difficult since there are so many submissions that come in and I can take such a small number of them. Still, I try to the best of my ability to respond to those that I can’t take in such a way as to encourage them and give them hope. Of the ones I do choose to work with it means I have a larger percentage of debut authors than most agents want to have, I know that, and it does impact on the financial return for my efforts. Still, it’s what I feel led to do whatever I need to do and wherever I need to go to make it happen. On Publisher’s Marketplace I’m generally up on the top of the list of agents placing debut authors, often number one, but that also means I don’t get to do as many big deals as many other agents. It is what it is, I have to go where I feel led to go.

I present at conferences around the country, generally twenty or so a year, for the same reason. I do it trying to use this gift of encouragement to help other writers use their words for the Lord. Am I seeing a return for my efforts? Am I being successful? I don’t know. How do you measure success in providing encouragement? How many people have to give you feedback that something you did encouraged or helped them? One is enough to keep me going.

Encouragement is important in writing, more than in many other endeavors because writing is by definition a very solitary task. Writers often don’t get this encouragement from friends and family who do not really understand. If they do get it they often find it is a sort of ‘blind faith’ from a mother, husband or wife who just think everything we do is wonderful. That is heart-warming, but not particularly useful from a writing perspective. What is useful is feedback from others in the business, people who understand the process, people who can encourage but who can also help us grow in our craft. That’s why we are in critique groups, writing groups and attend meetings and conferences.

And why I have chosen to do what I do.

Terry Burns is an agent with Hartline Literary as well as a writer of 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 www.terryburns.net. He’s also a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR).

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6 Responses to Encouragement: From an Agent’s Point of View

  1. Joanne Sher says:

    You have encouraged ME, Terry. Love this post.

  2. Your willingness to share some truth with me at a conference last year helped set me on the right course. Thanks for the courage to do so – and the gentleness of delivery!

  3. It was an encouraging experience when you turned down my first novel. That was going on 2 years ago now, and I can see how far I’ve come since.

    I’d also like to say thanks to your assistant at the time. She did the actual read-through, and sent me a personal email that was very much a blessing.

    Thanks again.

    Natalia Gortova

  4. Mary F. Allen says:

    Be encouraged that your obedience to God’s will for you will reap great rewards. Thanks for being an encouragement.

  5. I love that there are agents out there committed to discovering and developing debut authors! Sharing this post on twitter, because it’s encouraging to writers!

  6. I TOTALLY agree, Terry! Encouragement is very important and few offer it. Great post!