Alum talks about publishing

The Daily Pennsylvanian
December 10, 1998

In her second visit to the Kelly Writers House, Penn alumna Loretta Barrett, a literary agent for Barrett Books Inc., spoke to aspring writers about the ins and outs of getting their work published as part of the Alumni Writers Series. Most of the discussion focused on difficulties first-time authors face getting writing published and how they can succeed in the competitive publishing world.

In front of an audience of about 30 people, Barrett - who attended the university in the 1960s - drew on experiences selling writers' work to publishing companies to address concerns of students and others interested in seeing their work in print. "The key to getting published is a matter of writing, writing, writing," Barrett said to open up the workshop. "Most books aren't published because they aren't written." Barrett discussed the difference between writing and getting published, noting that "writing is an art, publishing is a business." She reminded the audience that they need to know about the publishing industry in order to get their books on the market.

Barrett told the success stories of other writers, including actress Betty White and author Margaret Atwood. She also said that she once passed up the chance to sign Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, explaining that while she wanted his comic strip published, her colleagues disagreed. Barrett urged all writers to read The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book, which offers guidelines for writers - including advice on finding a literary agent. Barrett explained that a literary agent's job is to "find a [publishing house] to fall in love with your work." A literary agent is a necessity for a writer, especially one involved with fiction, according to Barrett. She described her firsthand experiences in publishing, both as editor-in-chief of Anchor Books and corporate vice president of Doubleday. "I went into publishing to change the world," Barrett said. "Ideas change the world." Several students who attended the speech said they found the program informative. "Before I came here, I had no clue about the operations [behind getting published]," Wharton sophomore Ryan MeLemore said. "After, I feel better connected and I've learned the dos and don'ts of getting a book out there."