I have been asked to speak to a business class at the Penn State College, McKeesport Campus. next week. The professor wants me to tell her class how I started the business and how the industry has evolved during those 19 years. Ideally, I would have had a business plan, I didn’t have a written one, but I did have a goal and that was to earn a living.
I worked at Whitaker House Publishing for 11 years and worked up from being a secretary to the Vice President and to the editors to being the Vice President of Marketing. When I went to work there I found my niche – Christian books. I loved selling books and when I decided to quit the corporate I wanted to stay in the industry, so I started my own company.
How did I ever have the nerve to do that?
This is what I’ll share with these young students. It takes persistence and consistence. I had mentors and support from people who knew computers. I knew nothing about computers, but I knew they were an integral part of what I wanted to do. I knew the business and I had the contacts, I just had to find publishers to work for as an independent rep. Thus, I became Hartline Marketing and did that for at least 10 years. The industry changed, Spring Arbor was bought by Ingram and that changed my business dramatically.
All along people had been sending me manuscripts to “look at.” I sold my first manuscript for Jane Kirkpatrick in 1992 – we sold it to the first publisher I called, Multnomah. They told me “We don’t like to work with agents.” I asked why and they said because agents are too pushy. I told them I was a nice agent. Our editor was Rod Morris. Jane is still my client and we’ve sold 13 or 14 of her books. She is one of my dearest friends. Eventually, I changed the name of the company to Hartline Literary Agency and hired 3 agents to help with the many proposals that were coming in via USPS and e-mail.
God has been my guide all along. At first I would lay my head on my desk and say “Lord, I can’t do this,” and then get up and work. What I want to share with the students is that it takes persistence and consistence. It takes a good work ethic. I get up every day and “get ready for work” even though I work from my home office.
I’ve read that small businesses are the hope for our nation. Even as authors working from home, hone your craft and write the very best book you can. This industry is tough right now and the editors are looking for stellar writing. Prepare a proposal that will catch their attention. I don’t mean with fancy fonts and pictures, just a well organized, well written proposal. Authors tell me that the proposal is the hardest part of writing. I tell them that it is one of the most important parts of getting the book published. Finding mentors and networking are so important. If you are writing fiction join ACFW and RWA; be a part of a critique group. Writing is lonely; you need to connect with other authors.
I still love this industry and I love working with our authors.