Thursday, February 25, 2010

Diana Interviews Founder and CEO Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency

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?

When Ingram bought Spring Arbor Distributing, that changed a program I had with Spring Arbor. I was a vender with Spring Arbor and I took books from small publishers and self-published books and helped them market with this large distributor to the bookstores. Ingram closed my program, so I had to regroup. All along I had been getting manuscripts from people who wanted me to read them and give them my opinion. So I decided to become an Agent. I sold the first book I represented to the first publisher I called. They told me they didn’t like to deal with agents (this was in 1992). I asked them why and they said because agents are pushy. I said “I’m a nice agent” and they give me to an editor, who bought the book.

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.



writer jim said...

That was very interesting; especially seeing how much happiness Joyce has had in her occupation.

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Joyce, I know what you mean about not wanting to leave the house without a book! Whenever I go to the doctor's office, or someplace where I might be stuck waiting, I always bring a book with me to read!

Tamela Hancock Murray said...

I am so grateful to Joyce for giving me a chance to be an agent. To have the name and support of her agency behind me is invaluable. She has always offered wisdom and guidance that I appreciate. Her statement to that editor years ago that she is a nice agent (True!) no doubt opened doors for every other CBA agent in the business today. She is not only a persistent and consistent agent, but also a persistent and consistent friend.

Terry Burns said...

Me too! Me too! Terry says waving his hand. I have so much appreciated the chance to work with Joyce, and she has been very patient with me considering I can be something of a maverick, charging off directions on my own. But I wouldn't have done this on my own and have only had what success I have had because of her mentoring, and because I had the prestige of her agency behind me giving me credibility. Thanks, Joyce, we probably don't say that enough.

Connie Cameron said...

How wonderful to gain answers to questions I have had about the "humble" beginnings of Joyce and the agency.
So proud to be represented by Hartline. And Diana - great interview!

Bonnie Toews said...

As we watch the publishing industry changing, reading your interview, Diana, and learning the insights Joyce shares offer hope to newbies like me. Rest assured your reputation as an agency and as individual agents is stellar, so I can imagine how stiff the competition is to have your agency help a developing author establish a career as a novelist. Such a relationship is truly blessed and success is the reward for agent, agency and author--AAA produces a triple A rating for Heartline.

A little hokey but I couldn't resist because it's true.

Marching forward in faith,


Lisa Harris said...

Wonderful interview! Joyce has always been such a blessing and encouragement to me. With her as my agent, I've always felt as if I have my own cheerleader! Thanks for the interview, Diana.

Millie Samuelson said...

What a DELIGHT to get to know Joyce and Hartline Literary better! Thanks for the GREAT interview, Diana and Joyce. . . I know I'm thrilled and grateful to have Hartline backing me. And your comment about your author who after a long time finally got a publisher brightens my day and weekend. I pray Diana and Hartline will make that come true for me, too. :-)

Joyce Hart said...

thanks to all of your for your kind words and encouragement. What a blessing you are to me today! I just got news from an editor that a series that's been on her desk for maybe a year is going to committee. So don't give up authors.

Wanda said...

Consistent and persistent, I like that and will be adding it to my quote book. I'm even going to put it on my computer so I will write every day. I will never be published if I don't follow those two little words and of course write :).
Thanks for the interview,it really shows how God uses other people in our lives and true success is shared by the many who help us along the way.

Elaine W. Miller said...

I'm encouraged that you have the faith in my writing to sign me with your agency. Thank you. This interview was a blessing to me.

Caroline said...

Joyce, your sweet spirit has always impressed me. Thanks so much for being kind to a newbie at conference several years ago & putting me right to ease. I'm so thankful God led you to establish Hartline!

Thanks, Diana, for the interview.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Wow. Thank you for conducting this, Diana and Joyce. I knew I liked you; now I know why!

My favorite part is where you put your head on the desk every day and said, "I can't do this, Lord," then went to work.

We must be twins separated at birth. Everything I've ever done that amounted to anything, I couldn't do. Then God showed up.

Love and appreciate you both so much,

ssnivens said...

I loved meeting Joyce, talking with her and being in her workshops for a couple of years at the Florida Christian Writers Conference, and love learning more about her through this great interview. I'm so thankful to her for taking me on as a client, and teaming me with you, Diana. Thank you both for your guidance and encouragement. Shelba

Eddie Jones said...

The first time I met Joyce was, where else? at a writers conference and she scared the typos out of me. Not that she meant to. But her knowledge and command of the industry, plus her frank appraisal of what it took to become a successful writer, was intimidating. She also reminded me a little of my first grade teacher -gruff and all business. Then I ran into her that evening in the lobby of the hotel. Turns out she was just like the rest of us. Tired and, unlike some of us, sweet, lovable and eager to chat. In the Bible names have meaning. I think God knew what he was doing when he joined Joyce with a Hart because that is the essence of what she is: heart. If the book industry had more Joyce's we'd sell more books, read more books, buy more books and share God's truth with more folks. I'll always view Joyce as the Dean of Agents.

Cerella D. Sechrist said...

I absolutely loved this interview and the opportunity to hear Joyce's heart and learn a little bit more about the industry. It was great to know how Hartline was founded. I'm so glad Diana shared this! :)

Loree Lough said...

A great interview, Diana! You introduced us to even more proof that Joyce, like a diamond, is a many-faceted woman who sparkles with wit and wisdom, glows with God's love, and shines with business savvy.

I'm proud to know her and honored to call myself a Hartline author!

Big warm hugs to you both,

Anonymous said...

Any woman who loves books, dogs and has an agent who has the wisdom to sign me up needs no additional credentials !

Thanks for letting us know you a little better Joyce.

Max Lewis

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Thank you Diane and Joyce for this interview. I met Joyce at a conference two years ago. She was willing to look at my work even though I now know it wasn't ready for publication then. Thanks again for your kindness and for encouraging me to keep learning, Joyce.

Joyce Hart said...

Again, thank you all so much for your comments. I'm a little embarrassed. With God, hard work and a good attitude, it's amazing what you can do. We want this blog to be informational and encouraging to writers.
Eddie Jones - I'm glad talked in the hotel lobby after the meetings that night. I would have hated to miss out on your friendship and I certainly didn't want you to think of me like your first-grade teacher. :)
Cecelia - My screen saver is photos we've taken through the years with our digital camera. Every so often a picture comes up that we took at the mid-Atlantic conference. It's you, me, Tamela, Janet Benrey and another gal that I can't remember her name.
To the rest of you that I've met at various conferences, I'm glad you're still writing. Don't ever give up.