Lipstick & Danger

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A Dark Cloud Called Literary Agent

Last weekend I attended a writer’s conference.  I look forward to these getaways where I can reconnect with fellow writers.  There are always insightful workshops that push me toward refining my work, improving my prospects and pushing me toward publishing.  The giveaways are a wonderful perk as well.  Exchanging business cards, jotting down notes about the writer and following up after the conference is something I enjoy beyond reason.  The encouragement I receive from my pen and ink friends is like drinking a double latte at midnight.  It certainly keeps me going.

2 Rivers Communications & Design, LLC with Dianna Graveman gave two workshops packed with helpful information I will most certainly use in the future.  She was incredibly helpful and plain spoken for those of us who need a helping hand in the tech world. Patient and interested in ideas some of the audience offered made her presentation memorable.  I even contacted her about the workshop and she was gracious enough to respond immediately with positive comments.

So you can imagine how disappointed I was when right off the bat a keynote speaker blasted us with her rough tongue and discouraging comments.  Besides being a tremendous success in the world of literary agents she is sought after for speaking engagements. If you are lucky enough to be one of her “chosen” you can count on a lucrative contract from a publishing house.  After about five minutes into her presentation I knew she was not the agent for me.  However I’d just been told I did indeed have a five minute pitch with her right after her presentation.  I thought “What have I got to lose?”  I wasn’t prepared but I had pitched before so I didn’t sweat it.  Much to my surprise I barely began when she cut me off saying “No one wants to read about terrorism anymore.” (I guess Tom Clancy, Brad Thor, Clive Cussler, Vince Flynn, Daniel Silva, James Rollins, Steve Berry and David Baldacci didn’t get the memo. I could easily list 10 more thriller authors who deal with this subject.) So in the end I got three minutes not five.  Her tone was abrupt and rude.  It’s a good thing I’m pretty confident in myself and have the ability to create fiction at the drop of a hat.  

I chatted with others coming out from “the agent’s” pitch session.  All were shaken and a little confused at the response they’d received.  Granted you don’t want a “yes” agent who can’t offer constructive guidance to improving your work.  Some of these writers were so young and experiencing the whole writer’s conference for the first time.  Others were like me with some having much more experience at pitching.  I felt like I spent the rest of the conference giving pep talks to wipe away disillusionment to my new friends.  Of course the side effect of this is that I have now slid into a kind of funk.  The money I wasted could have been spent on a conference that offered me so much more such as the Oklahoma Writers Conference, Thriller Fest, and Killer Nashville.   When veteran attendees to this conference voiced they would not return next year I realized I needed to just put it behind me and move on.  

The fact that I reconnected with wonderful writers, met new friends and got a few days rest from the every day grind of life was certainly worth something.  I write this blog today in hopes I’ll burst that cloud hanging over me.  Too many people believe in what I’m doing so I will press  on with the business of creating a female driven thriller.

0 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for the compliment, Patricia! I am so sorry not all of the conference met your expectations. I have never queried an agent, preferring instead to go with small presses, so I have no experience to share in this area. Hopefully, you'll have a better experience next time you pitch! It was great meeting you at the conference.

  2. I don't usually comment on blogs unless I'm in total agreement, but I have to on this one. Your post about Cherry is one that needs a defense. You state what a great agent she is, and if you are lucky enough to be one of the "chosen" you are pretty much assured a contract. And that is absolutely true. But you missed the big point…and that is what she said about terroist plots. And I'm surprised you missed it because you went on to name all the "big name" writers who have published novels dealing with terroism. Can you compete with a novel written by Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn? I know I can't. So what Cherry was telling you is that it's been done, and done, and done. And unless you have a name to go with it, the publishing houses that really run the show, won't even look at it. And I know this because Cherry is my agent, and just a year ago I proposed a novel with a terrorist plot and I thought I was brilliant when I came up with the idea. And lo and behold, Cherry told me the same thing she told you. Actually it was worse because I think her exact words were…"Lou, come on, you can think of something a little more original than that!"

    Cherry is definetly outspoken, but she is great at her job and knows what's up in the world of commercial publishing. I've told people before that instead of being offended when told their idea won't go in NY, they should write something that will. Once you get your foot in that door you have a little more power when you submit…but not until then.

    And honestly, although you need to make sure that your agent is a good fit with you, when you take something like what Cherry said so personally, then I'm not sure there will be a good fit out there for you. Agents have to be brassy and bold, think of who they're dealing with day in and day out…editors. And everyone knows that editors are actually aliens from another planet sent here to beat the human race into submission.

  3. I don't have an agent, but I have to agree with you on the point about the agent. I've met her before, have pitched to her, and have heard her speak. I wouldn't want her as an agent – I just don't think I would ever be comfortable with her and don't think we would be a good fit. And I've seen her at that conference before, so I would love to see a new agent at OCW in the future.

    And as for what you write – as a reader, I would LOVE to find a new author that could write a thriller with a female protagonist. I get tired of those big names, and want to read new authors. Your take may be different than every one of the authors you mentioned. As a writer, I understand the "it's been done" mentality, but as a reader, I want to see new writers, and I still love thrillers (including terrorist plots).

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