Deborah Bouziden: When did you acquire an agent and why? Do you think agents are important to a beginning writer’s career? Why or why not?

SW: I worked with a couple of agents before I was published, but they didn’t work out. Within a few months of selling my first book, I attended a local conference where I met a couple of agents and went with Richard Curtis based on his personality, client list and genre know-how. I later moved on to Robert Gottlieb at the William Morris Agency, and we parted ways when he left the agency to found his own firm. Then, at last, I found my “terminal” agent in Meg Ruley. I’d always thought we’d be a good match, but never approached her to represent me. Why? Bad advice from people giving me “friendly” pointers. Eventually I stopped listening to outside advice and paid attention to my gut. The gut was right. Meg and I are friends and a great team, and she’s done amazing things for my career.

Meg holds a meeting.

Meg holds a meeting.

In most types of commercial publishing, an agent is mandatory. Every week there are requests and things for the agent to handle. I can’t imagine juggling everything on my own.

DB: What should romance writers know about marketing and the publishing business today? What are some marketing tips for them? (One or two, if you can think of any.)

SW: Create a vibrant, user-friendly web site with a companion blog, and keep it fresh. Readers are surfers these days. Give them something great to look at on the Web.

Also, be kind to everyone you meet in the business, from the casual reader who drops by a booksigning to a book chain’s vp of marketing. The first time I met Nora Roberts, she had just published her first single title novel (Hot Ice) and was at a booksigning in Houston where nobody came. She and I talked that day, and I’ll never forget how genuine and kind she was to an emerging writer. Debbie Macomber is another great example. She is one of the most beloved authors around because she’s genuinely kind, and very generous with advice and encouragement. Writers like that are my role models.

DB: How has the Internet changed the way you work? (Research? Staying in touch with editors? Readers? Marketing? Etc.)

SW: It’s a classic blessing and a curse. Everything is literally at your fingertips, meaning you can instantly find out how an emergency ejection takes place in a fighter jet. That’s a blessing. It’s a curse because everybody can find you and they’re all so great! I am easily distracted, and the Internet messes with my focus. It’s easy to get sucked down into a time sink when you’re searching or surfing.

However, it makes doing business very fast and easy. No more churning out printed pages. I just e-mail everything.

Question for everybody–how do you stay focused when the World Wide Web is just a click away?