So here’s a post about something no one ever talks about: multiple offers of representation.
If you’re at this point, congratu-friggin-lations. Even if you have one offer, you’ve accomplished something very, very difficult. You are a CHAMPION.
But okay, serious talk, hardly anyone talks about what you’re supposed to do if you end up with multiple offer, and I don’t understand why. It’s like you’re supposed to feel weird or something about multiple people wanting your book? No way. You should feel friggin PROUD. You earned this.
But okay! Once the first offer comes, others can potentially come FAST, and it’s a whirlwind of, “omg what am I supposed to do? Is this real life?” Yes, it is real life, and you’re about to have a very important decision to make. You’re entering into a business partnership! Hopefully not just for this book, but for your career.
Once you have an offer, a day feels like a year, and yet a second at the same time. You just want to GO, but there are calls to be had and emails to be responded to, and sometimes it feels like there’s no time to get all the information you need to make an informed decision.
But there is time. BREATHE.
Tips for Handling Multiple Offers:
Have your deadline set. Once you’ve had your first call, you should have set an appropriate deadline to give all other agents an opportunity to consider your material. This should be at least a week (no more than two), and not fall on a weekend or holiday. Honestly, I told all other agents my deadline was a day before it actually was, so that I could have a free day to sit and think on everything in the event I needed the time.
Make your first call the one to beat . . . and then your next. What I mean by this is that, once you’ve had your second call, consider how you felt about it in comparison to the first. Did you guys vibe well? Did their editorial vision stand out more to you? Were you so excited talking to them about your book, and love their plans? Then great, maybe this second agent is the new one to beat! I liked to try to think about this in the moment, so I knew exactly how I felt once the call was over. However, all that said, the best call should not always mean that’s the agent for you. Because . . .
Make sure you compare contracts and agency agreements. Does the agency want a slice of your soul? Are you allowed to still use your project if you end up having a falling out with that agency? Are the terms something you’re comfortable with? When it comes to agency contracts, there’s really not much (if anything?) in terms of negotiating. So make sure you’re good with it.
Give them all a fair chance. Even if you think you know who you want to sign with early on, you’d be surprised. Ask them all the same questions. Talk to their clients.
Write down what they say during calls!! Seriously, do it. It helped me SO much to be able to look back and check out who had what ideas for my book, and who wanted to sub it to which house. I’ve known people to record the conversations, but if you do something like this, it’s best to ask agents first. Just writing down the important points worked for me, though.
Remember what’s important to you. Only you know this. Don’t be afraid to pass up your flashy dream agent if you feel like someone else better understands your work. Remember, you want to be working with this person throughout your career. It’s important for you guys to mesh.
Be aware of unique situations. Okay, so this is kind of a personal note, but I feel like maybe it’ll help someone (especially those of you in NY!) I had one offer from a pair of agents who operate in the same city I do. They were from a highly prominent agency with INCREDIBLE books, and we were able to meet up for three hours to discuss my book in detail. THREE HOURS of being told by two people how much they love my work and their plans for my career as a whole, while being surrounded by books slapped with all sorts of awards. They even fed me sweets. What a dream, right? They were incredible agents, and it was hard not to just accept the offer then and there. BUT, I had to remind myself that not everyone had the same opportunity. If I had the chance to meet with other agents in person for this long, face-to-face, any of them could seem super enthusiastic about my work. It’s SO much easier to see enthusiasm in person. And in the end, because I tried very hard to remember this, I ended up going with a different agent who I felt, if given the same opportunity, would have proved her enthusiasm even more.
Do not be bought! Haha, this is kind of silly but I think agents sent me approximately 30 books while I was trying to make my decision! This doesn’t happen often, and it can be beneficial so you better understand an agent’s taste, but it’s certainly easy to get swept away by pretty covers and autographed copies of books you love.
Remember, agents can be sneaky when they know they’re fighting for your work. They can get creative, and try to make you feel very wanted. There’s one agency in particular that, as soon as you hang up from a call with them, will have their entire team follow you on social media. All agents, the film rep, even some of their popular authors. A different agency had the head agent email me telling me about how the whole team had read my manuscript, then went on to misspell EVERY character name. They just wanted to try to make me feel good and wanted, you know? When they believe in your work and want to snatch it away from other agents, they will try very very hard to make you feel super amazing. But remember, this is a business contract. Try not to get swayed by this stuff, and trust your gut.
Trust your gut. I just said this, but I needed to say it, again.
Ask ALL the questions. If you forgot something on the phone, email it to them. If there’s a certain author of theirs you want to talk to (even if it’s a big name), just ask. This is an important decision for you, and don’t be afraid to ask what you want to know. I definitely asked what I think are some out-there questions, and was usually surprised by the answers!
Try to find past clients. Ones who were dropped, or left, whether on good terms or bad. I feel like a broken record, but this is a business partnership. You want to know all sides of what you could potentially be getting into.
Ask about some of their favorite books! Do these sounds like what else you write, or what you want to write in the future?
Think long term. Do you think this person can work with you for the long haul?
I was hesitant of agents who were also writers. You don’t have to be. Maybe this is fine for you. But it’s always good to ask about their plans, and whether they intend to stick with agenting for the foreseeable future, even if they sell their own manuscript.
Be mindful where your agent is located. This isn’t always important, and I had offers from great agents outside of NY. Two of which, like I said, were very hard to pass up! But if they are outside of NY, it’s worth asking how they keep updated with what editors are looking for, and how they’re staying up-to-date with publishing.
Know what’s important to you, personally. It was VERY important for me to know revision plans (and this one should always be important, for anyone), and names of editors or houses they wanted to sub my book to. For you, maybe you want someone who is willing to help you with self publishing in the future. This is highly individual.
Make sure an agent isn’t interested just because they think your book is a hot commodity. Try to gauge how enthusiastic they seem. Do you want someone who is writing emails or dealing with a bunch of other things during your call? Probably not a good sign for what you can expect in the future.
I was concerned with how many clients an agent had, and how big those clients were. If the agent had a big name client, was I going to be as important to them as that big name? To me, it was important not to fall to the wayside, because if the answer was no, I knew I would have felt like just an easy check for them. I wanted an agent who I felt was able to make me a focus even if they did have big name clients.
A little bit of “sneak” is okay. We’ve spent months/years being rejected, so of course it feels amazing if an agent is fighting for us. Just don’t let that be what sways you.
There’s no general right or wrong; only what’s right and wrong for you. Passing up flashy agencies or agents you’ve dreamed about offering for years is hard. But in the end, this is about what works best for you, and who you feel is going to be the best partner in not only jump starting, but also in continuing your career for the long haul.
I know it won’t feel like a lot of time if you end up here, but you do. Breathe. Don’t make a decision just because you don’t want to deal with this any more.
Publishers Marketplace is a great resource. If you’re in a situation where it’s possible, the $25 a month allows you to see agent sales in-depth, as well as editor sales. This is helpful if you’re anything like me and super nosy about where someone wants to sub you.
If an agent refuses to answer any questions, especially if they know it’s a multiple offer situation, this is a huge red flag. No one is big enough or amazing enough that you should sign with them based on faith alone.
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