Saturday, April 12, 2014

Heart to Heart with Agent Jim Hart...

Jim Hart is an agent with the Hartline Literary Agency, and will be teaching workshops at St. Davids on “Why You Should Hire an Agent” and “Proposals that Pop.”  He also will offer free 15-minute appointments to conferees interested in pitching their books to him. Jim was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer the following questions.
—Audrey Stallsmith      

Why did you decide to become a literary agent? 

I really needed a job that I could be passionate about.

Is the job harder or easier than you had expected?

Parts of the job have been a challenge. Receiving eight rejections in one day from a single publisher can be hard!

In your experience, what is the biggest mistake that beginning writers make when approaching an agent?

Not doing their homework. Is your book even appropriate for the agent that you’re sending to? Have you looked at their preferred submission guidelines? Are you prepared with a convincing and complete proposal?

If you could change one thing about the Christian publishing industry, what would it be?

I think I’m struggling with the idea of turning some authors into ‘literary rock stars.’ I recognize the need for strong marketing – without it books would not be sold. But, as a follower of Christ, I tend to be uncomfortable with the pedestal that the Christian entertainment industry, as a whole, seems to put creative people up on.

Do you market only to Christian publishing houses or are you willing to approach secular ones as well?

I’m beginning to approach general market publishers.

What types of books and authors do you prefer to represent?

I have a very eclectic palate when it comes to books. I like nonfiction books that deal with church growth, evangelism strategies, and also biographies. For fiction I just like a good story, regardless of genre. I lean toward unique and quirky styles. It’s okay with me if it’s a story that I’ve already heard, if it’s being told in a fresh manner.

How necessary is it for those authors to have an online presence these days, and which of the following would you consider the most important:  a web site, online articles, social media, or a blog?

I personally like to see a professional looking author web page that is content rich with blogs, videos, and great graphics. Look professional and you’re more apt to be taken seriously. If you don’t have an adequate, substantial, national platform, then it’s going to be tough to have a publisher pick you up. If you’ve been published, you still have to be a major component in the marketing process, and that includes an ‘all-of-the-above’ mentality.  

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