Thursday, May 01, 2008

How Much to Tell

I get a lot of questions about how much to tell an agent. If an agent previously reviewed your material and liked it enough to ask you to keep her in mind for other work, should you remind her of this rejection? If your work is currently under consideration at a publisher, should you let agents know? If your full has been requested by another agent, should you let agents know? If you’ve received an offer from either an agent or publisher, should you let agents know? And last, if you have received and accepted an offer of representation, how should you let the others know?

So here are my guidelines. Not rules, guidelines. I’m sure many of you will be able to tell me that other agents have told you differently and that might very well be true. Agents are people too and have different opinions on many things—which is one of the reasons this business is so subjective. Ultimately, whatever you decide, you need to go with your gut and your own level of comfort. Some of you might feel the need to share more than others, and that’s fine. Ultimately there’s no right or wrong. However, since I’ve been asked these questions by numerous readers, I’m going to give you my opinion. After all, that’s really what this blog is about, my opinion.

I think that any time an agent expresses interest in you or your work, you need to remind her of that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with rejection. You need to learn that to survive in this business and agents know that too. Hey, agents send out work that gets rejected all the time. It’s part of the business and doesn’t mean we think any less of any of our authors. In fact, it usually just makes us more determined. So when you are resubmitting to an agent, whether it’s something fresh or a revision she helped influence, you need to let her know. Your name might not be enough to spark her memory, but reminding her that she asked to see more of your work will. It’s all about networking, and this is your way of using that connection.

Getting a request for a full manuscript from a publisher is a big deal, and if you have one, I think it’s important to let agents know. A couple of caveats, though: I think it’s good to know how you got that request. A red flag will go up if an agent is led to believe that you’ve been submitting to publishers as well as agents. However, if after reading your work in a contest a publisher made a request, or after a pitch appointment, that’s a different thing. The second caveat is who the publisher is. An e-publisher will not impress agents in the same way a major New York house will. So my advice: tell an agent you’re under consideration only if it’s a major house.

I would not, however, tell agents that other agents have requested the full. It’s not necessary and can backfire. Some might just wait around to see if an offer comes through, and others might just get annoyed because, remember, we all want to believe we are the first and only on your list. Let us live that fantasy. When an offer comes through from an agent, that’s the time to get everyone jumping. Now the ball is in your court and, well, I’ve written many times on how to handle this. . . .

And finally, what to do when you’ve accepted that offer of representation from your dream agent and need to notify other agents that your work is no longer under consideration? Email, snail mail, it’s up to you. All you need to do is send a polite note thanking them for their consideration, but letting them know that you are pulling the work (include title) you sent on such and such date from consideration. There’s no need to let anyone know who you accepted representation from, although if you want to tell, we are all dying of curiosity.

Hopefully this will help answer those sticky etiquette questions so many of you have.