It was fun to be back in New York. It's amazing how different the city looked to me since I moved to the Midwest. I used to drive in every day to work and didn't think much about it, but now that I live out in a suburb with lots of open spaces, the city seemed totally different. Fun, exciting, with lots to do but I found myself missing the openness of my new home at the same time. Or perhaps I was missing the three little voices calling "Mom."
The Backspace Conference Agent Author Day was enormously helpful to me as a writer and I would heartily recommend it to anyone considering a career as an author. I received feedback on my query letter and on my first five pages. Interestingly, some of the feedback on the opening pages ran counter to some advice I'd received previously from another respected agent, which I think illustrates an important point. The judgment of any one agent or editor are subjective. Personal taste plays a large role in each agent's decisions on what to represent. As different people read their work aloud, more than once I heard "It's good, it's just not my cup of tea" from the participating agents. This brought home to me the importance of thoroughly researching any agent I want to query. I read their submission guidelines on multiple sites and read the books of authors they represent.
The agents are consistent on quality of writing, and I know that for any agent I need to polish my work until it gleams. They all want to see excellent writing in the pages submitted, but where I found more difference of opinion was in the particulars they like to see in query letters. Many agents participate in online workshops and/or have blogs, so I would recommend looking through these. Many of them will post query letters they received that they particularly liked.
Anyway, here's what they had to say about mine:
They liked the general format of it. Mostly it needed to be tightened up. I needed to write less in my paragraph describing the work, leave out the secondary character Fiona, and focus more on the romantic relationship between my protagonist, Gemma, and Connor Hogan. They liked the idea of a romantic relationship where one partner can influence the perceptions of the other. Does call for the ultimate bit of trust, don't you think?
As to the opening pages, they recommended less stylized language. In other words, fewer complicated clauses. Keep the writing simple and straightfoward.
So now I have a query letter to rewrite, opening pages to simplify and a manuscript to finish. On the bright side, one agent in particular loved the concept so she'll be on the top of my list of agents to query!