I’m always excited to have a new installment of How I Met My Client/How I Met My Agent, but this one is especially fun on my end because…well, just read on and you’ll see. I’m going to let Steven go first here, because, really, the story starts with him.
As a quick introduction, Steven Piziks also writes as Steven Harper (The Books of Blood and Iron, the Clockwork Empire and Silent Empire series and nonfiction WRITING THE PARANORMAL NOVEL. He’s also done everything from mysteries (TRASH COURSE as Penny Drake) to tie-ins (Star Trek, Ghost Whisperer) and novelizations (IDENTITY, EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING). His most recent novel, BONE WAR, is just out from Roc Books!
How I Met My Agent by Steven Piziks
It was that miracle moment. The phone rang.
I snatched the receiver off the wall and discovered I was talking to Jim Baen of Baen Books. He had read my science fiction novel In the Company of Mind and wanted to buy it.
I almost leaped through the ceiling. But I kept myself under control and said something I had been rehearsing for years. “That’s fantastic!
Thank you! What kind of terms are you offering?”
He told me, and I said, “That’s great! I’ll call you back when I know more. Thanks so much!”
Once I hung up, did I call my parents? My best friend? I did not. I called an editor who had bought a bunch of my short stories over the years.
“I need an agent!” I bawled.
She laughed and gave me the number of Vince Alfieri, a New York agent.
By now I was wondering what my phone bill was going to be like. I called Vince, who said he wasn’t taking new clients right then.
Remember, this was in the days before cell phones, before the Internet, before Google. I couldn’t just hop on-line and spend a couple hours looking up agents and agencies.
“But,” Vince continued, “I know a lady who is taking clients. You might want to give her a call. Her name is Lucienne Diver.”
I seized on this. Vince gave me the number, and I dialed yet again. A woman with a radio announcer voice answered the phone, and I found myself talking to Lucienne.
This was 20 years ago.
I think I must have been one of her first clients, though at the time she never let on. She handily took over the Baen negotiations (though that turned into a real trick–buy me a cheeseburger some time and I’ll tell you about it).
Lucienne negotiated two contracts with Baen for me, and another contract with Roc. We had a number of conversations on the phone, but no face-to-face contact until about three years later, when we both attended the same convention. I think it was a World Fantasy Con, and we agreed to meet at a party.
“We’ll find each other,” she said on the phone. “I have long blond hair and I’ll probably be wearing a blue dress.”
“I’m the tall guy with the shaved head,” I said. “You’ll probably see me first.”
I was right. Five minutes into the reception, a voice said, “Steven?” and at last I was talking face-to-face with my agent. She took me to the bar for a Coke. (I don’t drink, so I’m a cheap date.)
Lucienne and I have been agent-and-client and friends for over twenty years. Our relationship has lasted longer than my first marriage, in fact. We’re both friends and business associates, and I’ve watched her go from single lady to married woman to proud mom, and from steadfast New Yorker to woo-hoo Floridian. We’ve weathered a number of changes to the publishing industry together, and I can only wonder what’s coming up next.
How I Met My Client
What Steven didn’t tell you is that he called me the week before my wedding to say that he had an offer on the table for his debut novel and was I interested in considering it for representation. Well, of course I was. The book sounded amazing! But this was in the early days of e-mail, before we all had e-readers and could accept electronic submissions, which meant that he had to send it in hardcopy, which put us into my wedding week. Still, I dug in right away. I couldn’t resist, and it wasn’t exactly a hardship, as I was physically unable to put the novel down. (IN THE COMPANY OF MIND, for inquiring minds who want to know, a dark, gritty novel with both highly personal and massively far-reaching stakes.)
Of course I wanted to represent it. I told him so, we came to an agreement, and I got right on the phone with the publisher. Or, at least, I left him a message. By that time we were into the final crash-prep for the wedding, so I found myself alternating between arguing with the caterer and negotiating on the phone at my parents’ house and, best of all (by some Tim Burton definition of the word “best”) from a spider infested phone booth on my honeymoon.
As Steven says, these were the days before cell phones. My husband (ooh, it was so exciting to say that then!) and I honeymooned in a rustic lakefront cottage on Lake George. The only phone we had access to was in a phone booth at the edge of the parking lot at the lodge. The only problem was it was festooned with spider webs and, I was quite certain, populated by the eight-legged menaces that created them. Clearly, no one was expected to actually make calls on vacation. What, was I crazy?
The answer, of course, is yes. I am. And a work-aholic. And so I, the girl with the spider phobia, reached bravely into the phone booth, risking life and limb to put coins into the slot and grab onto the receiver, holding it at the very end of its reach and contorting myself to stay as far away as I could from the creepy crawlies. Here, I’ve drawn you a visual with all of my spectacular artistic talent.
(You can see why I don’t give up my day job for my art.)
The rest is history. Steven and I have worked together for years and years, through various genres, names and publishing permutations.
We’ve seen the restructuring of publishing distribution, the advent of e-books (as more than a faraway fear that they would ruin book publishing for all time), cell phones and electronic signatures. We’ve seen crazes and trends and bandwagons, oh my! It will be fascinating to see what the next twenty years have in store.
If you’d like to find out more about Steven Piziks, you can visit his website, his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter, @StevenPiziks.
Other Installments of How I Met My Client/Agent:
2 thoughts on “Installment 5 of How I Met My Client with Steven Piziks”
I love this story. I signed with Elaine in the midst of her wedding prep too 🙂 Maybe it is a Knight Agency tradition?
We’re all workaholics there!