I really love this new How I Met My Client/Agent series on the blog and hope you do too! One of my favorite things about it is that it illustrates the many paths to finding representation.
I first met Carol Berg at a pitch appointment at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in 1999. Now, I’m going to tell you a secret—I met a lot of people at that conference. As I remember, they worked their guests pretty hard, with hours upon hours of back to back appointments day after day, so that by the time it was over I’d have been lucky to put any face to any name or pitch. However, I very cleverly asked Carol to send me her material. Full disclosure—as long as a pitch is in a genre I represent and doesn’t sound too off the wall or done to death or glaring with logic gaps, I will ask to see a portion, because some people are amazing writers and poor pitchers or vice versa. It’s the material that truly tells you what you need to know.
And Carol’s material was incredible! As you might guess, I was swamped with submissions after the conference and also in general, because this was back when I was the first reader for everything at the office, not just my own submissions. So, I read always and everywhere. In bed, in the bathtub, on trains, planes and…well, not in automobiles. I get car sick when I read in the car. Except…well, my husband and I had to take a road trip and he was driving and I had so much to read that I thought maybe I could knock out a few submission reads on the way. I got to exactly one. Carol Berg had sent me synopses for four books and sample chapters for two of them.
Those chapters absolutely blew me away. In fact, I was so impressed that I read pages out loud to my husband, interjecting with pithy commentary like “Wow” and “She’s incredible!” He agreed, of course, because he is a man of perspicacity and taste. So, I read and read until I was stopped by the state of my stomach. It was worth every second.
As soon as I was back in the office, I requested fulls and was thrilled when they lived up to the promise of the partials I’d already seen.
As Carol says in her piece (up next), it wasn’t long before we had offers and a deal. Not too long thereafter, we had covers and release dates and amazing reviews pouring in. I’m so thrilled the world has gotten to see what Pete and I knew right off the bat—that Carol Berg is a force for fantasy. We’ve been together now through her Rai-Kirah series (TRANSFORMATION, REVELATION, RESTORATION), her stand-along SONG OF THE BEAST (winner of the Colorado Book Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy), her Bridge of D’Arnath series (SON OF AVONAR, GUARDIANS OF THE KEEP, THE SOUL WEAVER and DAUGHTER OF ANCIENTS), the Lighthouse Duet (FLESH AND SPIRIT and BREATH AND BONE, Mythopoeic Award winners), the Collegica Magica series (THE SPIRIT LENS, THE SOUL MIRROR and THE DAEMON PRISM) and, most recently, the Sanctuary duology (DUST AND LIGHT and ASH AND SILVER).
She’s written some of the most memorable characters in fantasy (the tortured Seyonne from the Rai-Kirah series arguably my favorite, but there’s some very stiff competition here!). I’m so thrilled that every time a new Carol Berg novel comes in, I get to read it first!
How I Met My Agent by Carol Berg
I was a latecomer to professional fiction writing—a software engineer with three mostly grown sons, an exceptional spouse who bleeds hardware, and an omnivorous reading habit. But a friend had seduced me into writing letters “in character” to feed her own writing hobby, and I fell in love with writing fantasy novels for fun. I call it the hobby that ate my life. In 1998, I started a new story which felt different from those that had come before. It was as if I got it –it being a notion that I was sitting inside the head of my hero, knowing exactly what he was feeling and experiencing. Either I had stepped to another level of writing, or I was going slightly crazy – or maybe those are really something the same.
My friend and I decided to try out the Pikes Peak Writers Conference to see what we could learn about the publishing industry. And wow, did we get an earful. Besides craft workshops, we listened to actual agents and editors talk about what they were looking for and how the publishing process works. We also met our first Real Published Author, who sat and talked to us about her career, all the good, bad, and elsewise. This generous person was Christie Golden – who, as it happens, appeared in this very column not so long ago!
That conference also introduced me to the Friday afternoon Read-and-Critique session. The R&C, aka the “split your chest open in front of the whole world session,” is where eight or ten writers read the first few pages of their work for a pro and get a critique on the spot. I tried it, and truly thought I was going to bleed out before I’d ever read a word. But the reception was positive, so I came back a year later and tried it again. By this time, my breakthrough story had won the first novel contest at Pikes Peak, and I had started a new story to read for a fantasy/science fiction editor from Roc Books.
The editor hardly said anything. I didn’t think she liked it. But when my friend shoved me into a ten-minute pitch session with her, in which I babbled incoherently for eight minutes, the editor said she wanted to see that book when I was finished with it.
Amid stunned incoherence, my ever trusty friend and I retreated to our computer and started researching agents. And what did we find out? One of the guest agents at Pikes Peak that year was Lucienne Diver, who not only had a stellar reputation, but represented Christie Golden, who had been so kind and open the previous year! So I squeezed in an appointment with Lucienne, and immediately decided that this was the person I wanted to help me through this new adventure. Calm, professional, exuding smarts and common sense, she agreed to read some chapters of my completed book, the contest winner. A few weeks later she offered representation, and when I finished the book Roc had requested, I sent it straight to her. Six days later we had an offer, and was I ever delighted that I had Lucienne in my corner.
On that day, and many days since, I have appreciated her knowledge of the market and the industry, and her support for my writing. Despite my initial, let us call it incoherent exuberance, I was a grown-up, and she has never treated me otherwise, providing the necessary information and context for me to make my own decisions. I love that, and Lucienne!
Other Installments of How I Met My Client/Agent:
Amy Christine Parker