Monday, April 23, 2007

Multiple Offers from Agents

You get that call. Finally, an agent wants to offer representation and you’re over the moon. Your first instinct is to shout, “Yes, anything you want,” into the phone. But I’m here to tell you to suppress all first instincts. This is the time when you are finally in the driver’s seat and can take the opportunity to hire the agent you feel is best for you and your work. Think of it this way: Would you marry the first man who asks you out? Well, I guess you might, but hopefully you’ve interviewed him or at least dated others first.

So how do you handle that call? Thank the agent, ask her to give you a day or two, and hang up the phone to do your celebratory dance. Then get to work. Where is this agent on your list and why is she there? Have you met her before, talked with her, and know that you have a connection? If that’s the case there’s probably no question she’s already the right agent for you. But, if like most authors, you’ve never met her, or any other agents, and other than knowing her reputation you don’t really know her, then it’s time to set up an agenting hiring process.

Contact (I would call and email) all the other agents who are currently reviewing your material. For those you are interested in working with I would simply let them know you have an offer of representation and are entertaining any other offers. Let them know that you need to hear of their interest by Monday or Tuesday or whatever day you choose. If you’re someone who needs timeliness from an agent then this is your test. If she doesn’t respond by the date you’ve both agreed to then she’s probably not right for you. It also shows a level of enthusiasm. Those who are excited about a little competition and the prospect of a new client are very likely to get back to you quickly.

For any agents you suddenly find you’re not that interested in working with, simply send a letter or email to let them know that you received another offer and are pulling your work from consideration. (You can wait to do this after you have officially accepted an offer.)

I’m not going to kid you, this is probably going to feel like one of the most stressful times of your life, but it’s also going to be worth it. Hopefully you are giving yourself the time you need to hire the right person for the job. The person who is going to work best with you and meet your needs (not necessarily the person your best friend loves or the “big name” that everyone suggests). This is your agent. Choosing an agent, like choosing a spouse, is a personal decision, and when it comes right down to it the biggest name or the best reputation, or even the person who your best friend loves, isn’t necessarily the person for you.

So what should you be doing while waiting. You should be celebrating and you should also be preparing for your interviews. Tomorrow I’m going to talk about questions you should have on hand when talking to a potential agent.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from any agented authors who went though this process and what you learned. Did you give all potential agents an opportunity or just accept that first call? What worked for you and what didn’t?



Anonymous said...

Well, I wish I'd read this before my 'great adventure', lol.
I sent out five queries to agents I'd researched, and all five were agents I really thought would be a good fit for my work.
An agent got back to me almost right away (three days later, I think) and she was very enthusiastic. Her enthusiasm swayed me. I e-mailed her and we chatted back and forth. She was most persuasive - said she loved the book, thought it was great...etc., so I signed with her and sent e-mails to the other four agents. I got two e-mails back congratulating me. (Which I thought was nice.) She was my agent for 6 months. Sent the book to 4 editors, got great feedback, then decided it needed a complete rewriting and was too much work for her, so she dropped me.
I sold the book on my own and I'm back to looking for an agent, but I was so burned out by the experience I'm not doing a very good job of it. I'm sending out one query at a time, and I guess that's ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

My offer of representation came at the end of my query process, with no other offers on the table. I knew from research that this agent was legitimate, and my gut told me she was it, so I said "yes" during the initial phone call. Although it's still very early in our relationship, things are going well.

I don't think we listen to our instincts often enough, instead relying on other people to sway our decisions.

kris said...

Just a week or so before Jessica called me with an offer of representation, I had made a major decision about the direction for the next book I was writing. During our call, after we'd done some initial chatting, she made the exact same suggestion. That was when I knew that we were on the same wavelength and could probably work very well together.

There were other agents reading it at the time, but after talking to some of Jessica's other clients, I decided against contacting them (other than to let them know I had accepted another offer, of course). The other clients had all raved; my experience with a past agent had taught me that my own comfort level was a pretty darned good guide; and my gut feeling was that this was the right move. It's been almost five years now, so I think my gut was right!

Adrienne said...

I was only offered representation by one agent. Fortunately it was by a totally awesome agent with whom I had an excellent rapport, and who just totally "got" my book.

Acting wise however, I was faced with the dilemma of choosing between two excellent agents, and it was the hardest decision ever (all my life I have wanted to be faced with such a decision and then . . . ). I took my time. Informed both that I had another offer on the table. I called them and met with them each several times, and finally I made my decision. It was so hard because they were both excellent and lovely people.

It's so odd, you think that all you want is choice, but my literary agent experience was much simpler and more thrilling, given the fact I didn't have to make one.

Anonymous said...

Elantu Veovode
I contacted the publisher I wanted and landed my own contract, then I decided that reading the contract and making sense of it was harder than writing the book. With contract in hand, I found an agent with the help of a friend. I met the agent, liked him and we seemed to get along well. He negotiated a better contract for me and the book was published later that year. It seemed that the show was up and running. Think again. I've written two pieces in the three years that we've been together and I don't think that my agent showed them to anyone. When I asked about this, he vanished. I did my homework, worked my way up the mountain and then woke up one morning to find out that I had the trip to do all over again. I thought I knew this guy, now I'm not sure that it's possible to know anyone, especially agents.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is all very interesting to me! I reached a point several months ago when I realized multiple submissions didn't mean 'more than one ms.'

So...good for me, right?

It's so darn nervewracking, but I think the flutter under my sternum is part excitement. Having a ms, critiqued and rewritten (several times=), I found is only one part of this crazy industry but I love the networking. It's unlike any other fair I've experienced.

This is a great place for tips. I'm really glad I found it.