Agent Ambush

Russ Farpoint 2014My Darkest Night? Agent Ambush

My memory is hazy on the some of the details.

But that’s what happens when you get pulverized. Shock overtakes your system.

In the fall of 2008 I attended a Backspace writer’s event in New York City. What particularly drew me to the event was a session wherein new authors submit a portion of their work, to have it read aloud in front of a group, and a panel of agents gives commentary.

If things go well, you just might find yourself with an agent, and, even better, a book deal.

At the time I was polishing up my debut novel Finders Keepers, feeling it was just about ready for prime time. So I submitted a page from the prologue — not the version I ultimately published — but a page of manuscript that I was certain was going to absolutely kill.

It killed all right. It killed me.

There I was, sitting in a NYC hotel conference room, listening to various passages from other emerging writers, and thinking that some were actually half-way decent, and others were, well … less so. But either way it didn’t matter to me, because I knew — absolutely knew — that nobody had anything as clever and inventive as what I had with Finders Keepers. There was simply nothing like it out there.

About a dozen authors had been presented, and finally, I heard my name.

The butterflies came, and I semi puffed out my chest with pride, semi slunk in my chair, because it was show time after all, and no matter how good you feel going in, adrenaline does funny things to a person. But still. I was feeling good. I was excited, I was having visions of wild applause and the beginning of a huge career. This was my time. This was my time. This was my time.

Only…not so much.

As soon as the ‘reader’ began, I knew I was sunk. Her cadence was wrong. She brushed passed the humor, she fumbled some words. But more so … the passage I submitted … which was still pretty good, wasn’t quite where I finally got it to.

The “expert” agents on the panel had a slightly different assessment. One agent in particular.

Again, my memory is hazy, so I forget the specifics, but essentially her critique was this:

You suck. You suck big, you suck in every way. You suck, you suck, you suck. And more so, you really really suck. You have no skill, your story makes no sense, it’s not funny, and it’s wildly derivative of several other stories done far better (that one was a real head scratcher).

And the agent delivered this critique with glee, with an American Idol-esque look-at-me I’m-the-real-star-here moment, and, essentially used my words as toilet paper. In front of everyone.

So rather than stand up for my ovation, I sunk between my shoulders, and used every ounce of restraint I had from bursting out of the room and breaking things. Was I humiliated? Oh yes. Did I have elaborate plans to find this “agent” in a dark alley and unveil a critique of my own, using a lead pipe and motorcycle chain? Thought crossed my mind.

But instead a slunk off into the Manhattan night, devastated.  I won’t go so far as to say tears filled my eyes, but I was pretty close.

And if you’re wondering if I thought about quitting my dreams of being an author?

Yes. Yes, I did.

But only for a moment. Because I knew that I still had a unique story on my hands that I thought people would really enjoy, and with just a few minor tweaks, it would be right where I wanted it.

And that’s essentially what happened.

I spent a day revising the opening sequence, subsequently landed an agent, and was close to three different book deals – which all went sideways because the economy crashed. But I ultimately published Finders Keepers, to acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, and on my own landed a national distribution contract, which included Finders Keepers landing in 25 or so Barnes & Nobles throughout the U.S.

You bet I had a dark night, but rather than allow that little troll of an ‘agent’ derail me, I worked my way through it to enjoy much brighter days indeed. So much so that the sequel to Finders Keepers is on its way. With a third book in the series coming right after that.

My memory might be hazy, but my author mojo is better than ever.

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