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.

Jessica

15 comments:

Julie Weathers said...

Jessica;

You all are far more generous than I would have been. The chance of causing strife between working partners and friends wouldn't have been worth it to me.

As for the second book, I would have preferred to stay with my first agent. They are the one who took a chance on me. Even if the book isn't exactly what they normally represent, I am assuming your working relationship is good enough you could ask one of the others if they had any hints about the second book.

That being said, my first agency encouraged me to find another agent for my suspense book as she specialized in children's books and didn't feel shw would be qualified to represent the other book. The second agency had no interest in children's books so it worked out. Even so, when I get a new agent, I hope they will be able to represent everything I have.

I have a rather monogamous tendency even if I do have a literary split personality.

As to your original topic, yeah, common sense is a good thing. Do people really think you wouldn't pass it on to a fellow agent if you thought they might be interested?

JW

Lorra said...

This is a great post. Although the first item has been discussed and explained on other agent blogs, I believe this is the first time an agent has explained the best approach for new projects.

Thanks!

Richard Mabry said...

Jessica,
Thanks for an explanation of a thorny problem that I would never have imagined would happen. I can understand the strong desire to be represented, but submitting the same work to everyone in a single agency is kind of like trying to date triplets simultaneously.

Gail said...

Writing a query letter is the author trying to “flash” an agent. We have a few seconds to impress and then it’s over. ‘Course flashing the entire office takes some of the shine off. LOL Good point made in the post.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been wrong and not passed on something, and then were surprised when the other agent got the same query and wanted to pursue it?

Are you guys that in tune with what the other would like?

Linnea said...

Off topic. Sadie and Roscoe are very cute. I love my dogs too!

Anonymous said...

Jessica,

I agree with your issue completely. I don't query any agent while my work is being reviewed for consideration, and never query more than one agent per agency. However,it brought a new concern to light, one that I had not previously thought of.

What if one of you is reviewing a requested proposal, and the writer entered the 100 word contest with other stories, and was picked by a different agent?

In my entries, I included information I felt would be recognized by the agent, in order for my additional projects to be viewed by said agent. Since I had no suspicions of contest success due to the amount of talent I was up against, this possibility never occurred to me.

So if my work is with one, but my little entry gets chosen by the other, is is okay to just withdraw from the contest or do I lose on both ends? Funny, it's one thing to not expect to win, an entirely different scenario to suddenly hope one loses. This is terrible...

Please advise. Thank you.

Rachel Glass said...

I keep a word document with a check-off list of agents and their agencies that I have queried/plan to query. I think it's the author's responsibility to "peddle" appropriately.

That being said, how do you guys feel about considering query letters from the same person (you've rejected), for an entirely different work (and genre) by that same person? Do you consider each query you receive?

Thank you,

R.G.

Aimless Writer said...

I would never have thought to query the same book to all the agents within one agency. Sheesh! That's like thinking you guys never discuss work.
As for querying another agent within the same agency with my second book? I think I'd go to my first agent and ask her what she thinks.
I always thought once you sign with an agent you were like a team or partners in your career. So it would be logical to go to your partner and discuss this before pursueing any other representation. Common sense, no?

AstonWest said...

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?

I'm thinking no-holds-barred street fight...

Adaora A. said...

Wow Jessica.

That must have been excruciating for the three of you. I don't know if I would have been able to cope in your situation. Mind you, I'm not an agent, but still. That's rough. You're a class act for accomodating like that. Many in your position would have been justified to toss completely.

Anonymous said...

Tongue in cheek.....

Surely such a scenario would involve drawing straws....

You know the one who draws the short straw gets the prize...

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I'm more curious on resubmitting if there was no reply within the four weeks. I'm not impatient, but would like to know if my work has at least arrived :-(

Anyone have a tip... ?

Thanks,
K. D.

BookEnds, LLC said...

Quick answers to your questions....

submissions have nothing to do with the contest. If you win a critique however and your material is already with one of our agents it would just be common courtesy to let us know that.

Aimless: I'm talking about the second book for unrepresented authors only. If you are represented you would want/hope that the agent you are working with is the one for all of your books

If four weeks have gone by and that is the agency's stated response time it's perfectly acceptable to request a status.

--jhf

Anonymous said...

It's good to know that you do share queries with each other. But how is a writer to know that about other agencies, or your agency if they don't read that particular blog post? Especially very large agencies, who knows who talks to whom.