Monday, February 21, 2011

A Reminder to Always Follow Up

When it comes to finding an agent, I think that authors erroneously feel that they have no power, that they need to capitulate to the agent in order to find one. Most dangerous, though, is how authors will feel this even after an offer of representation comes in, a time when you truly do have all the power and need to use every bit of it to make an important career decision.

I’ve often written about the importance of interviewing as many agents as possible when an offer comes in. You never know how an agent will work for you until you’ve had the chance to talk with a number of agents and get a real feel for how you’ll work together. Which is why, when an offer comes in, you should give any agents who interest you the chance to offer.

On December 17, after we had closed for the year, I received an email from an author who wanted to tell me that she had received an offer of representation from another agent. I had not yet responded to her query, and yet she got in touch anyway. It turns out her query had been lost in my crash, but after looking at it I knew it was a book I would have requested. I immediately asked for the manuscript, read, loved, and offered. On December 22, at 10:30 p.m., I signed my last client for 2010.

I think all too often authors feel that an offer should only be shopped to those agents who have requested material. Let me tell you, it should be shopped to anyone who is on your “A” list, unless of course it’s an agent who has already read and rejected the material.

Jessica

20 comments:

Fawn Neun said...

Definitely a lesson I learned too late. :/

Debra L. Schubert said...

When I was offered representation, I only informed other agents who had requested my work. I never even thought to inform agents who I hadn't heard from, but were on my "A" list.

This is so important, I'm going to link this post on Twitter and my FB page. Thanks so much for sharing this vital information, and what a great story about your last client of '10!

Cheyanne said...

I was wondering about this just yesterday. Perfect timing for this post, thank you!

L.G.Smith said...

I never really thought about doing that before, but it makes sense. And it obviously worked out well for one writer. :)

Ben said...

Great suggestion. Not many writers can think outside the system like this (me included) thanks for outlining it.

Scooter Carlyle said...

I wouldn't have thought to do that. Thanks for the tip.

Anna Zagar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Zagar said...

Sorry, my original post was riddled with errors. I just wanted to say I went through this recently. I did notify all agents to whom I had outstanding queries, not just requested material. It resulted in an influx of more requests, and appreciative emails thanking me for keeping them updated on my offers. Agents are busy. Respect that they might not have had a chance to get to your query. I ended up receiving two more offers from doing this. It's important not to bridges; agent/author relationships are not indestructible. You may end up in the query trenches again one day; you don't want your name to be remembered in negative light.

Anna Zagar said...

I meant, it's important not to "burn bridges". Oy!

Sandra Cormier said...

That is very useful information. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

Natalia Sylvester said...

This is really great advice! I've noticed a lot of people only follow up with agents who've requested materials, and I might have done the same had it not been for an #askagent session on Twitter several weeks ago that advised otherwise.

I followed up with all five agents who still had my query when I received an offer. All responded right away that they'd take a look; two requested the full and one offered representation. That ended up being the agent I signed with.

Wynter Daniels said...

Great advice. When I was offered representation I informed another agent who'd requested the full ms. I never thought about offering her a chance to respond, but I knew I clicked with the the one who'd offered so well. In my case there was no point.

Nicole said...

OH. >=[

I have asked this and asked this and NEVER received this sort of response. I'd thought of perhaps letting those other agents I'd queried know I'd had an offer, but all the information I found stated otherwise.

Should have followed up on my instincts. I'm with Fawn up there. Definitely a lesson learned too late.

But thanks, Jessica, for this post so that others don't make the same mistake. :)

David said...

Do I misunderstand here? This is only if I didn't receive a response to my query, not if I received a polite no?

A.M. Kuska said...

Thank you for that. I am in the process of compiling my "A" list right now. I will definitely be careful to follow up with them.

Melissa (ATX) said...

Jessica, just out of curiosity, has the etiquette for querying agents changed over the years? My personal preference is to query one agent at a time, in order of preference. Although I realize that querying multiple agents simultaneously saves time, it seems more ... well, "polite" to wait for a response before moving on down the "wish list."

BookEnds, LLC said...

Melissa:

I don't know that any agent ever recommends or has recommended querying one at a time? First of all, with many agents saying "no answer means no" how do you know when to query the next agent. The other issue is this is your career you're talking about. Take charge and work to find the best agent for you, not just the first one who says yes.

--jhf

BookEnds, LLC said...

David:

You are correct. Only contact agents you have not yet heard from. A no is a no even if you have an offer.

Of course, if it was a no on a query and you have an offer and you still really want to be represented by that agent...it can't hurt to ask.

--jhf

iheartya said...

What is the best way to research for one's "A" list? Following blogs/websites and meeting at any conferences, obviously. Any other ways to make sure that you have the best information before you pitch?

Claire Dawn said...

Definitely. It's so easy to get lost in the crowd. There's a million reasons why an agent hasn't requested materials, and only one of them is: she might not like your book. As an author, you're going to be working with this person (for a long time, hopefully). You need to find the best match.