Agents and Publishers


Susie Bright, also known as the founding editor of The Best American Erotica series, and author/editor of 16 books on sex and erotica, including How to Write a Dirty Story [Available at & Amazon UK] is here in the Triage Room to help you solve the thorniest of writer dilemmas. Writing, Editing, Publishing and Marketing are all areas she can advise you on with experience and candor.

Q: I’m curious about marketing to the other side of the publishing world. You know, the world where I finish my brilliant but yet unwritten best-seller and start marketing it to agents and publishers. How do I do that?

For example, I know of a conference in July where there will be agents and editors available for private consultation. If I had that manuscript finished what would I do with it? Take along a dozen copies and sprinkle them around? Take along a couple of sample chapters? Take an outline?

And if I don’t go to the conference, what are some good tricks (ambush, kidnapping, stalking, etc.) to get an agent interested? Or for that matter, how would I go about finding an agent to stalk? Or should I just go looking for a publisher myself and keep all the money? How would I approach the publisher?

I’m sure it’s these uncertainties that are keeping me from getting started on that novel! Help me, please?

Anytown, USA

Dear Reader,

You’re right to be anticipating the challenge you face AFTER you write the last page of your novel. A lot of writers think the publishing fairy is going to come slip an offer under their pillow after they complete their opus- but you obviously are prepared for Plan B— selling your book to the pros who are going to put it into print.

I’ve devoted a third of my book, How to Read/Write a Dirty Story to selling and marketing, and I suggest you read my chapters on “Money Money Money”, “Big-Time Book Publishers”, “Small Press Publishers”, “Self Publishing and the Internet”, and “The Literary Agents”.

Meanwhile, here’s a few tips:

Don’t go to those conferences where you pay for the privilege of talking to an “agent”. Agents who are busy making deals don’t have time to go to those conferences. I consider them a rip-off.

The best way to be seen by agents and publishers, (aside from marrying them), is to establish your credibility in small press publishing. Publish in the journals, newspapers, web pages, and small magazines who pay little or nothing. Get involved in public readings and various places where writers speak out in public.

In other words, become known to READERS, and the agents and publishers will find you. They seek out talent that is ambitious, hungry, and out there.

Obviously, you have to have a taste for the places you seek to publish and perform in. This grass roots investment in finding a readership only works if you feel like you “fit in” the milieu. You need to attend some readings at various bookstores and coffee shops, read all the alternative journals and zines you can find, and see who you like. Or start your own project, and put out a call for other writers to join your inspiration. The writers community here at ERA is a perfect example of this– people who aren’t waiting around for Rupert Murdoch to discover their work. They’re establishing the ground work where ultimately, they are going to be seen by the larger publishers.

You don’t need to finish your novel to do this. Write short stories, poems, essays, book reviews- things you can do quickly to get involved.

As you do this, you will naturally make friends, and get to know authors who have agents. You will meet publishers who you don’t even need an agent to work with. You will get introduced to people in the business, in a natural setting. This is how people get “hooked up” to agents, through personal introductions and some kind of track record.

Finally, although I appreciate your long-range view, I have a intuition that it’s not lack of an agent that’s keeping your book-writing at bay. You are grasping for a reason to say, “Oh, it’s no use, why bother?”

But if you “Write For Yourself”, (make this your mantra) you will find that your confidence in your work grows, and you will feel genuinely prepared to find your readership.

Blaming your inertia on the hard breaks of the publishing biz is like people who say they can’t get laid, but haven’t left the house in six months. If you don’t put yourself in the position to be published- i.e., writing and producing work- you’re definitely never going to meet anyone.

Your satisfaction in writing this novel is going to be priceless. Long after you publish it, you’ll remember that the writing of it, and your own private enlightenment in that process, was the BEST part of the whole damn thing. Better than the money, better than the fans. I’m not kidding. The money and groupies come and go, but your own creative soul does not. Now write up that kidnapping scheme and send it to me, quick!

© 2002 Susie Bright. All rights reserved.

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