July 2, 2009

Thank you, Barney Karpfinger

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 10:00 am

It’s easy to forget (not for me, of course, but I don’t flatter myself that you all are holding onto these details) that I began querying with a 180,000 behemoth.

And remember that I deemed every one of those words crucial.

Barney Karpfinger, the agent who ushered Jonathan Kellerman to fame, asked to see the first 100 pages of my ms. I sent them out, sure that I was about to be signed. And by about to be, I figured maybe a few weeks, a month at most.

During this time Jonathan Kellerman gave a reading at the Sixth Avenue Barnes & Noble. I went to it, having no idea that Mr. Karpfinger would also attend. But sure enough, there was the great man himself, introduced and pointed to in the crowd by his client.

Kellerman told an amusing anecdote about how Karpfinger read the first Alex Delaware ms and said something like, This guy is going to make me rich, to which Kellerman responded, Well, that’s great, because then I’ll be ten times richer. He explained to the crowd how agents got a ten percent cut–which dates this whole story–of their clients’ earnings. He also played guitar. Kellerman, that is, not Karpfinger.

Anyway, I stood in line to get my book signed and mumbled something to the author about his being an inspiration, and then I forced myself to walk up to the man himself.

Barney Karpfinger was a very dignified looking gentleman with peppery hair. How nice to blah blah, I said. You actually have a partial of my ms now.

Do we? he responded smoothly. Well, I’m sure we’ll get to it just as soon as possible.

Oh, I have no doubt! I said, horrified that he took my introduction as nagging.

A month or so later Karpfinger sent me a rejection. It said a few glowing things, however. Better, it had almost a full page of single spaced text explaining where the novel fell down.

Among other things, Karpfinger talked about the “neurotic style” of my protagonist whereby she thought about things too much and kept going over them in her head.

I hadn’t realized Dara–my main character–did this at all! It was a completely unconscious typing out of probably what my own head looked like much of the time. Well, I could deal with being a neurotic over thinker myself, but that wasn’t what I intended for my kick ass heroine!

Over the next two weeks, I sat down and slashed 60,000 words from my previously uncuttable baby.

At last I had a ms that could be considered saleable, at least in terms of length.

Thank you, Barney Karpfinger.

And thank you all for reading. This will be it until after the holiday…Happy fourth, everyone!


  1. [...] can remember when this took place for me. It was, as Michele, suggests life-changing. Certainly it forever changed the direction of my work [...]

    Pingback by Suspense Your Disbelief » Made It Moment: Michele Dreier — October 24, 2011 @ 7:57 pm

  2. I never queried Barney Karpfinger, but your hilarious account of your encounter brings to mind a couple of my own fumbling dances with experienced agents. Rejections are never fun, but they often prove enlightening, and sometimes they lead to sales. Liz

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — October 26, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

  3. I enjoyed what you told about your book. I, too, have a manuscript that was labeled “too long” by an editor and I subsequently cut it from 120,000+ words to 102,000. (This was in September, 2011. This, as you know, is a painful process but my book is definitely better now. I’m still looking for an agent…I’ve only sent about a dozen query letters (if that) and all have been rejects, but some had a friendly word or two in the NO. I’ve never been asked to send any more of my ms than what was called for in directions for a query submission.

    Comment by Dona Seacat — April 11, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress