Ask a Literary Agent: Carly Watters Answers Your Questions!

Posted by May 6th, 2015

Ask a Literary Agent: Carly Watters Answers Your Questions!We are so happy to have Carly Watters on the Book Country blog! Carly is a VP and senior literary agent with the P.S. Literary Agency. Her bestselling and debut authors include Rebecca Phillips, Danny Appleby, and Book Country member Andrea Dunlop. Carly frequently shares informative insights about the publishing industry on her blog and on Twitter. Below, Carly offers advice on how to get your name and book out there, what to do if you’ve already self-published a book and are seeking representation, and the state of erotica in today’s market.


Do you participate in social media pitch campaigns like #PitMad on Twitter? If so, what can you share from your experience for those of us who might be thinking about participating in the future? – Kelley

I used to do more than I do now. I love working with debuts, and I’m always open to queries. However, I had one experience that made me step back from #PitMad and other online contests. Here’s the example: I favorited a tweet of a pitch I liked, and the author and I started to chat. When I offered representation on the phone a week later, the author said they’ve been interested in another agent for awhile now and used my offer as leverage to let her top agent know. I’m all for savvy business-minded people, but that made me reevaluate why I would spend my time searching out authors–and taking many days out of my year with these contests–when I have so many amazing queries in my inbox.

Also, I’ve written a guide to Twitter pitching if you want more tips! 

 How do you get your name and your books out there??? green2face

One day at a time! Building a platform is not an overnight endeavor. It’s a months and years-long process to connect with readers. Firstly, social media is going to be your first stop. It’s free and it can help immensely if you use it correctly. The most important thing to do is start to follow lots of people to increase the chances of people following you. And you must engage with them–no sitting back and being quiet. Decide who you want to be: helpful and informative? Interactive and funny? What suits your personality and your book? Most importantly, be yourself online. If you make honest friendships and business connections, they will rise to the occasion when it’s time to promote your book. Lastly, you can hire a publicist to work with you and help get the word out. There are lots of resources available to help you.

How receptive are agents to receiving manuscripts of a controversial nature? Is there a “keep a wide berth” agenda due to the potential backlash of such manuscripts, or is there a willing reception in the publishing world for more raw and challenging material? Does this even factor into the decision-making process? – Josh Vitalie

I’m not sure exactly what kind of controversy you’re talking about here. All types of books are published every day that have challenging topics. I stay away from morally offensive topics and books that I wouldn’t read personally. Overall, controversy is a good thing. Especially with non-fiction. It gives publicity teams a lot to work with in terms of getting coverage.

On the heels of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, where does erotica stand in the current market? Is it moving more mainstream, or was FIFTY SHADES just a one-hit wonder? More specifically, might agents be on the lookout for a well-written erotic novel? – Leslie J. Portu

Erotica was a genre before FIFTY SHADES and will be long after. Many publishers have been publishing books in this category for a long time and doing it well. It has certainly opened more agents’ and editors’ eyes to the genre, but there are limited imprints and publishers doing it. There haven’t been any new erotica imprints popping up (to my knowledge) other than publishers taking chances online with digital imprints. (Unlike YA when it took off.) The same agents that repped erotica before will continue to do so and those are the people to reach out to.

I was recently at a Pitch-o-Rama in SF and pitched my book to three agents. All of them were interested in the book, a cozy mystery and first in a series, until I told them I’d self-published it. At which point the agents said the same thing: No way! They simply couldn’t sell a book to a publisher that had already been self-published, and that publishing houses do not want to pick up the second book in a series. One of the agents said to come back and see her when I’d sold 50,000 of the first book. If I could sell that many self-published books, I probably wouldn’t be looking for an agent. As you can imagine, I am disappointed. My book has sold reasonably well, but I would like to increase its reach and readership. Based on what those agents told me, if I want an agent, I’ll have to abandon my current series and start a new one in order to find an agent. Now for the questions: What options are available to me given my situation? And, is this a universal sentiment among agents/publishers, that once a novel has been self-published, it can’t/won’t be picked up by an agent or publisher? – Janice Peacock

That is the response you’re going to get from most agents. If you are looking for what to do with this series, you can find an agent to sell foreign rights. However, agents are looking to work with authors long-term, so we expect you to write many series for many years to come. Don’t be hung up on this one series. You should continue to self-publish it and build name recognition. But work on something new to send to agents LONG before you self-publish it. Agents honestly can’t do much with a self-pubbed book that hasn’t sold tens of thousands of copies. If it’s already had an opportunity in the marketplace, no editor can bring it to an acquisitions meeting without a good reason. It’s not that agents don’t want to work hard for good books. It’s that our hands are literally tied.


About Carly Watters

Carly Watters began her publishing career in London at the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency. She has a BA in English Literature from Queen’s University and a MA in Publishing Studies from City University London. Since joining PSLA in 2010, Carly has had great success launching new authors domestically and abroad. Never without a book on hand, she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents at PSLA. Representing debuts and bestsellers, Carly is drawn to: emotional, well-paced fiction, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in; and platform-driven non-fiction.

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2 thoughts on “Ask a Literary Agent: Carly Watters Answers Your Questions!

  1. Eunice Oweifaware

    Dear Carly

    I have been looking for an agent for a while now, i was hoping to ask you if you will be my agent please, I live in England, and have written a couple of books.


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