Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Great Literary Agent Race, Part 4

Okay, I'm in the middle of the story, so I'm not ready to sign off right now.

Casey Lang, now my lawyer protagonist, was a shitty to non-existent character. I'd made her a lawyer handling a case, and nothing more than that. Now she needed substance. Not just physical characteristics, but a personal background, a unique voice, quirks, traits, things to make the reader root for her (versus rooting for her client).

I spent the next two years developing her, and developing her story. I went back and forth with her. I won't even describe some of her initial character traits.  Let's just say she was dreadful.  Her first name changed three times before she became Casey. Her background changed even more. Her voice wasn't really fixed until late 2012.

Meanwhile, as I wrenched through her character and the story itself, I braved another Backspace conference, two Gotham Writers classes in NYC (where I met some terrific people), one Algonkian 'pitch and shop' conference (not a high point, although the attendees were great), an online Writer's Digest class, a few Writer's Digest webinars, and a Writer's Digest conference (yet another disaster for me!).

Steven King's 'On Writing' was one of my bibles. Another was Strunk and White's 'The Elements Of Style.' Also Turow's 'Presumed Innocent.' And always at my side was James Scott Bell's book, 'Revision And Self-Editing.'

During that time, the book had at least four titles, none of them very interesting. I think I came up with the final title, Client Relations, sometime in late 2010, while I was taking a shower, or maybe when I was half-awake/half-asleep. I thought of it, with its nuanced meanings, and said to myself, 'Whoa, this works.'

Taking advantage of being close to the NYC publishing world, I also joined the National Book Women's Association, NYC chapter, and went to three 'Query Roulette' nights in three separate years, most recently last May (2013). I can't say enough great things about WNBA's Query Roulette. Basically, you sign up for one-on-one pitches to up to ten agents for, like $20 a pop. The agent reads your query letter and asks you to talk about the book. If they're interested, they ask for pages. The atmosphere is charged but very personal, and I met some incredible agents there like Jenny Bent, Katherine Sands, Bill Contardi... really awesome, A-list agents.

I received quite a few requests for pages the first time I went, and my submissions met with one polite rejection and...deafening silence.

The second and third times (2012 and 2013), I received more requests, but decided to 'bank' most of them until the book was really really ready.

Whenever the hell that would be.

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