Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Professionally Picky

Congratulations! You’ve received an offer of representation!!!

But there are more agents considering. Possibly agents you submitted to at midnight on a Friday after a glass of wine or two and noticed your rejection pile was growing and your submission list thinning and good GOD you need to GET IT OUT THERE MORE AND INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF AN OFFER JUST TO KEEP UP THE HOPE….!

I.E: definitely not dream agent material, but worthy of settling for.

Yeah, yeah; maybe I should have rose-colored glasses on here and say that EVERY agent an author submits to is TOTALLY his/her dream agent but…I know better. And it’s ok; this business is so subjective, just as not every author is right for every agent, not every agent is right for every author. Doesn’t make either party less awesome – just not the best professional fit.

So what do you do when you receive an offer and (as you should) want to be fair and notify any other considering agents to give them a chance…but don’t necessarily WANT to give some of them that chance, or KNOW that even if one of those agents you were being fair to offered, you wouldn’t go with them?

Maybe this is just a problem in MY eyes; I certainly can’t fault an author for wanting ANYONE to read his/her manuscript and fawn all over it, even if s/he doesn’t really intend to go with that agent. But truly, it’s a waste of time; and it really sucks to let an agent possibly fall in love with your manuscript if s/he doesn’t stand a chance.

So what’s the best approach?

Well, honesty. I’m a big girl; I can take it. And no, I won’t hold it against you.

I had to resist saying “WE’re big boys and girls” here just because I can’t speak for every agent, but in my experience honesty is the best policy in this situation. My only caution would be against jumping on the first offer received, due to excitement, or jumping on the best-known agent without weighing the pros and cons of each you submitted to. But you did all that research before you queried, right? RIGHT?

I’m certainly not suggesting that you have to make this decision the second you get an offer. If you’re not sure, you’re not sure. But, if there are one or two agents still considering who you ARE sure wouldn’t win out over the offering agent, it’s definitely ok to pull your material.

It can be as simple as:

I wanted to write and let you know that I received an offer of representation. I’m feeling very good about this offer (and do feel this agent would be the best fit for me), and so I would like to withdraw my submission at this time. I greatly appreciate your time and consideration.

Or more flowery like:

Thank you so much for your consideration of my work; your interest was inspiring to me. I did receive an offer of representation yesterday from an agent (or name the agent) I’m feeling really excited to work with. Given that I know this agent would really be a great fit for me, I’d like to go ahead and withdraw my partial at this time. Again, I greatly appreciate the time you spent with my work and wish you all the best of luck and success.

You can name the agent or not; personally, I’d like to know.

And of course…I definitely hope I’m not going to be seeing an avalanche of copy-pastes in my email of this post or, as an editor recently put it:


I mean, congratulations and I wish you all the best. ;)


  1. Thanks for the tips Natalie. I agree that it's best not to waste an agent's time that you aren't really interested in. This is really helpful as I hope to start querying this year.

  2. Or you could go with idle flattery:

    Because you being my agent would be just TOO good to be true, I am signing with a lesser agent for fear of the karmic debt your representation would surely incur.

    Rock on,


  3. Thanks, Natalalie. Seems like I'm always reading newly agented authors telling their "how I got my agent" stories, and many of them include a little "and I never expected to get more than one agent offer and have to choose," gushing...Yet they never do get around to telling us how they let those other agents down. I've often wondered the best way to do this if the situation ever arose. As always, you ROCK!! :)

  4. Many agents' only contact email to the public is the one for querying. No matter what message you send to that agent, you get a polite autoreply saying allow 3-6 weeks. I'm assuming these agents still check the subject header before filing it in a query folder.

  5. I've never been a super competitive person (bad? good?) so I've never understood that desire to tell every agent you've ever queried that you've received an offer just to see a bunch of full requests come in. It seems smarter and fairer to focus on the ones you already suspect will be a good fit. But if you feel like an agent you queried who hasn't requested pages but hasn't rejected you would be a great fit, can you fairly tell her via email that you've received an offer and ask if she'd like to continue reviewing your material?

    1. Rambliness- absolutely; put Offer of Rep in subject line and most agents will move it to their priority and respond in a week. My point is, don't make them rush read if you don't plan on gong with them anyway- just withdraw.

  6. Hi Natalie,
    If a writer receives an offer, I just assumed one would let the other agents know, especially if one has stated in their query letter that they've submitted their manuscript elsewhere. Perhaps common sense and courtesy isn't the norm anymore? But it should be.

    1. It actually happens (frustratingly) a lot that we'll request something from the query box or respond to a partial that the author says: oh! Thanks but I signed with someone else. !?

  7. What if a writer has an offer from a publisher? Could the writer query a few agents and put "Picture book offer from publisher on the table" in the subject line?

  8. Seems to me that, in general, the other agents are entitled to exactly the same consideration they give the author. If they have responded and requested the manuscript, they should probably get a drop-dead date to offer representation (no more than 72 hours or so). If they haven't responded at all, they aren't due anything.

  9. I know I'm a little late to this party, but wanted to say I really appreciate this post. Many authors go through this very thing, unsure what they should do when they do finally get that offer of rep. I agree with your advice. If I were an agent I sure wouldn't want to waste my time rushing to read a MS if there wasn't a snow-ball's chance in hell that I'd be seriously considered. Why waste people's time?

    I'll refer others to this post when they talk about what to do in this situation. ;)

  10. I was very happy to come across this wonderful little blog of yours. After reading many of the posts here, it has really let me in on the writing world that I'm trying to gain a foot hold in, what to expect and the most professional way to respond to possible publishing situations. Thank you so much for this blog and what you have here, I'll certainly be back to read more and will refer others to your blog. ^_^