Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Luxury of Choice

I've spent the last couple of days trying to power through my slush pile, and I actually managed to get through all pending queries. So if you sent me anything before today, you should've gotten a response. If you didn't, it means that either I never received your missive, or you didn't follow submission guidelines.

Which brings me to a problem I've encountered a lot lately. Several times in recent months I have asked for full manuscripts, been close to the end of a great manuscript, or finished the manuscript and offered representation and had the author say, basically, "Too late, chump." Well OK, they have been very nice and polite about it but... grrr!  GRR!  I WANTED THAT!!  WTF WHY WHA?!

OK, so I take responsibility for the ones that I hadn't even gotten to at all yet. It is my fault for having an overly full inbox. I should have been more on top of it. If Agent Speedy LaRue got the jump on me, well, fair enough, I guess.

But if I have the full?  And am reading it?  And maybe like LOVING it??  Or I have read the whole thing and adore it and get in touch with the author?  It is kinda seriously crushing to hear that they've already accepted an offer of representation. If you thought you wanted me even a little bit, why would you not give me the chance to throw my hat in the ring?  And if you knew you DIDN'T want me to throw my hat in the ring, why did you query me in the first place?

Course you don't have to take my advice. I know that most people say only to contact those who have a full. But if I were you, and I got an offer, I would get in touch with everyone who has an equery, partial or full. (Yes, queries too!  Yes!  Why not? People have email now! They will be able to get back to you, or ignore you, in a very timely manner.)

MOST of them will probably say "no thanks but best of luck." But a couple might say yes please! And then you will have the luxury of choice. Why would you not want that?


  1. I'm with you. It makes no sense not to contact all agents who have the ms if there's an offer of rep. Actually, it's kinda rude, IMO.

    Larissa, who would love to have multiple offers of rep...

  2. I agree completely. I'm sure some will think it's a ploy or they don't have time to get to it right then. Still, to me, it seems like a writer would contact other agents.

    Now, I have a question, but I'll probably post it on twitter to you also. Do you want to know who has made an offer?

  3. I agree, Larissa. But (as I edited the post a bit to make clear) - I think that if people have the query/partial only, you might as well give them a chance too. I mean why not? The worst thing they can do is ignore you, or say no, so what?

    Julie - I wouldn't think it was a ploy. I might not have time to get to it, but if I don't, I'd say "I don't have time to get to this, so I'll bow out, thanks and good luck."

    Yes, I always ask who has offered. You don't HAVE to tell me, but I think it is a bit weird if you refuse. It isn't a trick question.

  4. Thanks for the great advise. I'll keep this in mind for when that day comes. :)

  5. I'm with you, I don't understand why they wouldn't let you know unless they didn't want you, but then why bother querying? It just doesn't make sense. I think some of them just get caught up in the fact that someone offered representation and took the the first one without thinking it through. :\

    Glad you posted this though. I think we all need a reminder to not be in such a rush.

  6. I totally agree. When my current agent said she wanted to represent me and we had discussed what she thought still needed work in the novel, I contacted the other agent who had the full and told him what was going on. The other agent was super appreciative of my candor and gave me his best wishes. He was happy I found an agent who understood the novel and had thoughts on how to make it better before sending it out. I gave him the chance to give his thoughts but he hadn't had time to read it yet. He saw that I found someone great and was happy for me.

    To the other agency who had a partial, I sent a nice email thanking them so much for their time and letting them know I had found representation.

    It's the polite thing to do. Also, it doesn't burn any bridges for the future.

  7. I completely agree! I think it's smart to give yourself choices. You never know what will happen.

  8. I don't really know why someone wouldn't contact an agent who has a full (or partial) and give them that chance for discussion. Assuming they carefully chose that person in the first place.
    THAT is the thing. Perhaps they are not carefully choosing. It seems like some people submit in a huge frenzy, maybe not expecting a response (?) and react too quickly to the first nibble.
    If you chose the person to submit to, seems like a short step to let them know you have an offer.

  9. I absolutely agree that the author should contact you. Still, they may not have thought about it, truthfully. They may be in such a high for getting an agent to say yes that it doesn't occur to them that it would be in their best interests to contact the other agents to let them know before accepting.

    When Nathan Bransford requested a partial from me, his reply specifically asked me to let him know if I received an offer of representation so that he could respond. I thought that was a great idea. :)


  10. Hi Jennifer,

    I let all of the agents who offered know about other offers, and it amazes me when I hear about authors who didn't do this. It's very hard to say no to an agent when you've been dreaming about an agent offer forever, then suddenly out of the blue you have more than one agent asking for your hand and panic ensues. It did for me. I had to gut it out and say no, thanks, but I gave myself about a week to do so. It's a great problem to have, however, authors should remember that agents have feelings, too. I wonder if this type of writer is simply careless or maybe just doesn't want to deal with the awkwardness of contacting other agents who have his or her partials or fulls... Either way, it's rude. They could also be ignorant about protocol and probably don't realize the consequences of their actions or non-actions as the case may be. Sorry you've had to go through that ickiness lately. However, just think of the headache-client you escaped. =D

  11. Dang, that really would be a supreme bummer to invest time and energy in reading the full, and then not even get a courtesy e-mail.

    In my case, when the first offer came, I took a week to notify all the other agents with partials and fulls. I asked a lot of questions and gave everybody a chance to weigh in.

    And I'm glad I did, too. Now I know in my heart that ABLA was the right agency for me, and I'm glad I signed there!

    Sorry to hear that it's happened to you lately. Their loss...Hope the next query is a big kahuna with your name on it!

  12. So, say your query has been with an agent for a while and you aren't sure if it's a no via no response or they just haven't had time to wade through their query pile.

    Do you assume the latter and let them all know of the offer? I'm curious because I've heard stories of people getting full requests past the stated response time, and I'd hate to miss that chance.

  13. When you offered to me, well, you were already pretty much MY TOP CHOICE, so it seemed tacky to offer everybody else a chance to throw their hat in the ring when I already felt like there was a huge chance I would go with you. So I did offer those with fulls a chance, those with partials I notified them I was withdrawing, and queries, I said nothing unless I heard back from them later (I hadn't sent out a batch of queries recently anyway, so I didn't have any out that I thought would get back to me in the first place, although someone did request the full months after you sold it...).

    Would you want someone to contact you even if they already had an offer from a #1 choice they felt good about? It's obviously a moot point to me! But I just wondered.

  14. Certainly any agent who is in the process of reading all or part of the novel should be notified of an offer, and 99% of the time be given the chance to offer themselves.

    But it's easy to say, "If you didn't want me, why did you query me?" when that happens, but I don't think it's that black and white. Authors query agents along a spectrum of who they want most to who they just would like. Now, I'm a big fan of basing the so-called "dream agent" on actual conversations an author has had with them, not just agency or past sales, but there's no doubt that authors usually have one or two agents that they want more than any other. If that agent wants the author, they click on the phone, and the agent woos the author, Jenn's Beauty Pageant-style, I could see how the author would consider giving the other agents a "chance" might be simply wasting those other agents' time.

    But I think that most of the time, an author's only going to benefit from giving the other agents with fulls/partials a chance. And the agents too, for that matter.

  15. That seems dumb to me. If someone was gracious enough to ask to see my ms and then I decided to go with a different agent, it seems only polite to tell them about it, since you're supposed to be a professional and polite being. *shakes head and sighs*

  16. I once asked Nathan Bransford on his forums what he thought of using an offer of representation to "shop" other agents even at the query stage (it goes without saying anyone who has your full or partial should be contacted) and this is what he had to say:

    "I don't think it's totally ethical to shop around an offer of representation everywhere, including to people you haven't yet queried. You should definitely let the people who are actively considering your work that you have an offer, but as far as taking the offer and then going to new people? I wouldn't do it. It's not respectful of the agent who made you the offer."

    So while I had initially thought an offer of representation from any agent could open the gates to more interest, it's apparently bad decorum to do so.

    Any thoughts?


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