Is this how it is done: first a writer gets a publisher interested in his work, and then once he is interested, the writer contacts an agent, telling him of the interest?
Long time since I've heard from you. How goes the writing?
First a writer establishes a track record on his own - usually through magazine and journal writing, and these days, the Internet is becoming more acceptable, however, it still has some distance to go before many will consider it to be legitimate writing publication. You may also try local newspapers (the op-ed pages are often a good place to break in). It takes time and planning. You try to sell as much work as possible, though, once in a while you find yourself giving away a short piece of work here and there to fill in your resume'. To a limited degree, contests are also respected, but here you must be cautious. For legitimate contests see POETS AND WRITERS MAGAZINE and stay away from WRITERS DIGEST MAGAZINE.
Okay, so, you planned and banged your head against the brick wall of publication for a long time and you have a bit of a resume' with a few publications and a contest win or two under your belt. Now, you need to decide to go with an agent or on your own to a publisher. If you go with an agent, enjoying your current status, you won't get the best in the business, but if you are savvy, you can land a small, hard working agency that believes in your work (and often, this type of agency is the best!) This is the way I would go.
If this is the path you choose, remember these rules:
1) NEVER pay an agent a dime up-front.
2) NEVER pay to have your work read.
3) NEVER rewrite for an agent or go to an independent editor that works with the agent.
4) Read every word of every contract that comes your way, and never come from a position of weakness - all contracts are made to be negotiated.
5) ALWAYS ask if the agent has placed any books in the present or previous year with any solid publishing houses. Which acquiring editors at those houses did they work with? Get names and check them out.
Youngbear Roth, Executive Editor
The Success Trust Literary Family