Okay, so you had the call and now you have an offer of representation!
First thing to do is let the offering agent know that you have others considering, and that you’ll be able to respond in one to two weeks from the offer. (Personally, I think a week is sufficient, particularly if you like what you heard from the offering agent. But two is not unheard of.)
Then you notify every agent that is reading a partial or full, as well as everybody with an outstanding query. This is a little more difficult since a number agencies have moved to a “no response after X weeks/months means no” policy, so use your best judgment here. If it’s not too far from the stated timeline, I think it doesn’t hurt to inform them as well. (We all get behind – I know I do.) At BookEnds we respond to every query, so please do inform me of any offers if you haven’t already heard from me!
So to those agents still reading, you might say something like:
I received an offer of representation for MANUSCRIPT TITLE, but would still love to hear your thoughts and would like to be able to respond by DEADLINE.”
At this point, agents that are interested will make a push to read and respond by your deadline date. You may have another couple phone calls if multiple agents are interested, and you should treat those calls the same as the initial offering agent – you’re interviewing each other to find the best fit.
Once you’ve made your decision, accept the offer you choose and gracefully decline the offers that you’re passing on. People change agencies, representation and roles (editor to agent and vice versa) frequently in publishing, and you always want to act professionally.
What if I received an offer of publication while I was querying? Then what do I do?
First thing to do if you have an offer of publication while you’re looking for representation is to NOT ACCEPT THE DEAL OR ANY TERMS. An agent usually can’t renegotiate what you’ve already said yes to. You can respond with something like:
I’m so happy to hear that you’re interested in (TITLE). I’m in the middle of seeking representation, and hope to be in touch soon!”
In other words – express enthusiasm, but don’t say yes just yet. Be honest that you’re looking for an agent – again, a reputable publisher will not mind, and would generally prefer, to work with agented authors.
Notify the agents that you’ve queried that you have a publication offer and give a deadline for response. If you do receive an offer, some of the questions might talk about the deal you have in hand (e.g. Are you happy with that offer and/or does the agent think they can get a better offer elsewhere).
What if I know, 1000%, that I want to go with the offering agent? Should I bother taking other calls?
I think it’s always in your best interest to have more options, because you never really know who you’ll click with until you talk to everyone interested.
But at the same time, I think that if you know in your heart of hearts that nothing someone else could say will change your mind from the offering agent, I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing to waste another agent’s time. In that case, I think you can very professionally let them know that you’re withdrawing the manuscript from consideration as you have another offer you can’t refuse.
Posts in this series:
Working with An Agent: What does an agent do?
Working with An Agent: Step 1 - Writing your query letter
Working with An Agent: Step 2 - Researching agents and submitting
Working with An Agent: Step 3 - Getting the call
Working with An Agent: Step 4 - Responding to an offer
Working with An Agent: Step 5 - Your author-agency agreement
Working with An Agent: Step 6 - After your sign
Working with An Agent: Step 7 - If you decide it's time to part ways...