Monday, March 24, 2008

Multiple Submissions within the Same Agency

Or maybe I should have titled this “The Trouble with Email Submissions.” There’s been a new and frustrating phenomenon lately, and that’s authors who are submitting the same work to all three BookEnds agents. I suppose in the grand scheme of things it’s no skin off your teeth and only irritating to us, but here’s what happens. I get a query, I pass. It isn’t for me and didn’t grab me. However, I think it might be interesting to either Kim or Jacky, so after rejecting I forward the email to Kim and Jacky and let them know that if they are interested they should go ahead and respond. Lately, though, Kim or Jacky have replied that they received it too and had either already passed or were reading it. Recently, though, we had an issue where the same query was sent to all three of us and all three of us expressed interest and were ready to go ahead and make offers when the problem was discovered. While I suppose it’s possible, it wouldn’t be easy for three agents to represent the same client, and it doesn’t make much sense, for us anyway. Now what? Who gets the book, or is it just easier to keep the peace and let the book go altogether? It wasn’t a big book. It wasn’t going to make anyone millions, and letting it go wouldn’t be a big financial loss, but one of us keeping it and forcing the other two agents to watch its success, bitterly, could cause problems. In the end we were able to come to an agreement everyone was happy with, but it was an uncomfortable day or two and should never have happened. Obviously the book would have found the right agent by submitting to only one of us.

Being an agent is a bit of a cutthroat job, and to a certain degree we are all out for ourselves. First things first, I want all of the good submissions to come to me, but if I think it’s a good submission, but not right for me, the second thing I want are for all of the good submissions to come to our agency. The last thing any agent is going to do is simply send anything packing if she thinks there’s potential. If it’s not for me I’m going to pass it along, and I would say that at least four to five queries a month get passed to my colleagues.

Okay, so you all know already not to send multiple submissions within the same agency, but what about submitting to Kim or Jacky once you’ve been rejected by me? Hopefully my example above already answered that for you. I would recommend against it; as far as BookEnds is concerned, it’s probably a waste of your time. If I thought it was better for Jacky or Kim, and still intriguing, I would have sent it to them. However, that being said, if you are sending queries we probably wouldn’t know that you’d sent to the other two, so if you are really, really determined to be represented by BookEnds and you don’t care who the agent is, go ahead. Once you’ve been rejected by one, feel free to submit to the others, one by one, until you’ve exhausted all of us.

One thing that wasn’t asked of me was what about your second work. If you submitted Book #1 to me and realized later that you think you’d work better with Kim, is it okay to submit Book #2 to Kim, or have you already put all of your eggs in one basket and committed to me? It’s okay to submit to Kim. Let’s say Book #2 is similar to a deal you just saw Kim post or she took on a critique partner of yours whose writing is very similar to yours. Go ahead. Sending a book at one time to one agent doesn’t mean you’ve made any commitment to that agent, and that holds true even if she sent you a personalized rejection letter and asked to see more of your work. Of course, if she asked specifically to see more of your work I’m not sure why you wouldn’t send to her.
Remember, though, that in all of this your goal shouldn’t be just to find any agent (not that BookEnds agents are any agents), but to find the right agent for your work. Jacky, Kim, and I all have specific interests and areas of expertise. We’ve posted about it on the blog here and it’s on our Web site, and one of the reasons we might pass something on to one another is because it better fits another agent’s sensibilities. And that’s what you want. An agent who has sensibilities and personal interests that match your own.