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For Writers, A Hand With the Hustle

One woman and her Ecstatic Monkey want to support new writers with publicity, promotion and other dirty words.

Some writers are shameless self-promoters. For the rest of the struggling ink-stained masses, however, marketing is an eternal headache. It's hard enough to maintain a day job and hone one's craft. Wouldn't it be nice if someone else handled the hustle?

Rebekah Anderson thinks she has the answer. Anderson has just launched <a href="http://www.shaketown.com/rebekah/reading.html">Ecstatic Monkey</a>, a literary promotion project designed to support a community of emerging writers and small presses by organizing events, mailings and collaboration to bring their work to new audiences.

For a $15 annual membership fee, Ecstatic Monkey organizes monthly readings for writers, delivers access to a database of publications, contests, and local events and sends e-mail reminders of deadlines. But the biggest benefit to fledgling writers is individualized service. Vanessa Kulzer, one of the first writers to join this summer, will be published in the upcoming Women Behaving Badly anthology from <a href="http://thepaperjourney.com/">The Paper Journey Press</a> in North Carolina. Since Kulzer can't afford to attend the planned events on the East Coast, Ecstatic Monkey will help plan a West Coast reading and launch party.

Anderson (pictured above, right, with Don Waters of <a href="http://www.versuspress.com/">Versus Press</a> and Antonia Blue of <a href="http://www.kitchensinkmag.com/index.php">;Kitchen Sink</a> magazine) has worked in literary promotions and marketing since she graduated from college with a creative writing degree in 1997. With her background she understands the nuts and bolts of promotion and is happy to do the scut work -- such as haggling with printers and advertisers to get volume discounts on promotional material -- that so many writers either ignore or abhor.

Anderson's idea is not, shall we say, novel. <a href="http://www.leftcoastwriters.com/">Left Coast Writers</a> is another local writers' support network that wants to offer publicity services. The group asks $120 a year and boasts more established members. With its lower annual fee, however, Ecstatic Monkey aims for a greener constituency.

So far the group has about 15 members and about 10 small press affiliates. Anderson plans a membership drive this month. She'd also like to offer the same support and publicity push to small literary magazines just printing their first few issues. At the moment publishers don't have to pay to be affiliates. Anderson wanted to charge but was met with hesitation from larger presses who say they don't need help spreading word of mouth about their books and events. (For example, at a recent release party for Kitchen Sink, fans filled Adobe Bookstore in the Mission District and spilled onto the sidewalk.)

In December, Anderson held a small coming-out party at the Swedish American Hall that featured six local presses and was attended by over 150 people. People mingled and checked out the books on display, while representatives from each small press introduced themselves and presented readers. It garnered a small flood of interested e-mail in the following weeks, enough so that Anderson says she will be hiring interns to help with the membership drive (Anderson hopes to have 25 to 30 members by the end of the month) and the newsletter.

For writers just getting their feet wet, Ecstatic Monkey could help them get the word out. For smaller presses still having trouble getting quality submissions the group represents a base of potential contributing writers, not to mention networking venues for showcasing their products.

If you're a writer and Ecstatic Monkey sounds like a marketing opportunity more than a literary community, then you're exactly the type of writer the group is looking for.