Dear reader; Today I have the privilege of interviewing Hartline Literary Agency's founder and CEO, Joyce Hart.
Joyce, you have been in the 'book' business for a long time. Were you a devoted fan of reading, even before you got into the business?
Yes, I’ve always been an avid fiction reader. One Childhood memory is of sitting on a blanket in the shade of a tree with my book and my dog beside me. The librarians at my local library knew me well. I rarely leave the house without a book. I might get stuck somewhere and have a few minutes to read, even in my car, or in a line or in the doctor’s office. What a pity to waste that time when I could be reading.
Are you a self taught business woman or did you have someone mentoring you along the way?
I had some mentors along the way. Of course I learned the business at Whitaker House Publishing, where I worked for 11 years. When I went to work there I knew I had found my niche. My love of books just fit perfect in that job.
Your first venture into the publishing industry was not as an agent. Please share with our reader just how you got into this business.
I started out as a secretary to Bob Whitaker, Jr, the Vice President of Whitaker House and as the secretary to the editors. Eventually I moved into sales and I loved selling books to bookstores and distributors. It was so exciting to tell people about books and advise them what to buy. I was the Vice President of Marketing for the last three years of my employment. Then I decided to quit my job but I wanted to stay in publishing, so I started Hartline Marketing and became an independent sales rep for small companies. I helped a couple of small companies grow their businesses and that was fun too. I had a friend who was also an independent rep and he helped me learn how to set up the office, things about the computer, etc. He was invaluable to me those first years. He and his wife are still good friends, and the Whitaker family is too.
One of the book buyers paid you a compliment. Please share it here with us. I think it is something that we all need to put into practice to be a success.
He used to introduce me to his boss and friends like this: “this is Joyce Hart, she is consistent and persistent” Of course that’s because I called him every week for months to get him to buy our books. His company eventually became my largest account.
How exactly did you transition into Agenting?
Your agency has grown to you now having a team of four agents at Hartline, Tamela, Terry and Diana. Has that growth been a result of the steady success of Hartline Marketing?
I think so, because I dealt with key accounts and distributors I was known in the industry. It simply takes getting in the office every day and going to work. I give the Lord all the glory, because when I first started, I would lay my head on my desk and cry and say “Lord, I can’t do this” and then I would start to work. Again, it’s persistence and consistence. Make those phone calls, write those letters and e-mails and God will help you reap the benefits.
I would imagine you have seen this industry go through many phases. What are a few of the changes you have seen along the way.
Probably the largest changes have been consolidation of distributors and bookstores. There used to be 4 major distributors and now there are only two. Many mom and pop bookstores are gone, they’ve been bought by chains. We used to have 3 Christian bookstores in our area, now we have one.
Some Christian publishers have been bought by secular companies, that’s a big change.
In your estimation has book publishing changed for the better?
This is a hard question to answer. I’m thankful that publishers are still in business, but it’s the way we do business that is changing constantly. The editors are asking for name authors more and more. Several companies want authors whose last books have sold 20,000 to 40,000 copies. 5,000 used to be considered good.
Technology has changed the business for the better in many ways. It’s so much easier to send a proposal via e-mail instead of having to make hard copies and mail them to the publisher. E-mail has changed the way we communicate with editors. Rarely do we talk to anyone on the phone, it’s all e-mail. We even get contracts via e-mail. It’s wonderful.
The Internet has changed the way we market, web sites, e-mail addresses, social networking are a must for an author. We don’t accept an author who can’t use a computer. We’re living in a fast-paced world and we insist on e-mail proposals according to our specific guidelines.
Can you share with us a few of the personal joys, the highlights you have been blessed with through the years that stand out to you.
I love it when I get a contract for an author that we’ve tried to sell his/her book for a long time. This just happened recently with an author whose writing I love, she is so talented. I also love it when we can work with an editor and help develop a writer’s career. We’ve had several of those successes. The best formula is when we can work with editors who catch the same vision the author and I have. We’ve helped a lot of first-time authors get established and that is so rewarding. I am thankful when those authors stay with us once they succeed. I love our authors and I love working with them and helping them to mold their careers. It is so nice to have a job that you absolutely love. I love working with the Hartline Agents. They are a special group and I’m thankful to be a part of their lives. God is so good to us as an agency.
What is your favorite Genre to read and why?
I like mysteries, I’m a, 'Murder She Wrote', fan. I like cozies although as a rule CBA doesn’t. I also like women’s relationship books and contemporary romances and historical books. What can I say, I just plain like fiction and I love to read.
Joyce as a recap, where do you see this industry headed?
I don’t think print publishing will ever go away, although it will probably get a little smaller. I feel e-books are making an impact on the industry. We’re seeing larger numbers from e-book sales on the royalty reports. I think this will grow. Young people today read from a screen, be it telephone, computer or e-reader. I think we’ll always see books in print, too many of us love to hold a book in our hands and share a favorite book with our friends.
Thank you so much for sharing these little known gems about your life with us. I know Tamela, Terry and I are proud to be associated with this agency, it has a wonderful reputation. I pray it will continue to be a force for authors and the resultant published titles. May God continue to bless you Joyce personally and professionally.