by Tamela Hancock Murray
Whether you have been sending queries simultaneously through email, the Post Office, or by pitching at conferences, you may be among the select few authors who garners interest from more than one agent. Congratulations! While interest from more than one publishing professional doesn’t guarantee a contract, the consensus is that you have a strong proposal and a good shot at success. For the sake of clarity, I am confining this post to writers who are pitching to agents. The agent would manage interest from editors.
Hiring agents isn’t something writers can practice. At least, we hope not. Don’t earn the reputation as a writer who flits from agent to agent. So this decision is extremely important. You want a good fit for the long term. The agents want the same. As you go through the process of choosing, I have a couple of ideas that may help minimize unnecessary work and trouble for all concerned:
Fill Us In
Let the agents know the submission is going to more than one agent and why. If it’s because of a recent conference, have no fear. All of us waved to each other in the hall and know which ones of us attended what conferences. We know some writers interview a couple of agents rather than editors at these gatherings, and a casual conversation here and there can also lead to interest. So it’s fine to say that you are submitting to two or three agents you saw at Such and Such Conference. Of course, if you haven’t made personal contact but have chosen to submit to more than one agent after careful research, that’s fine, too. Just let us know.
Who’s Your Favorite?
Meetings and/or research should helped you form opinions about which agent you prefer. Any of them would be great, but one rises to the top. But you don’t want to hold up your career in case Favorite Agent doesn’t jump at the chance to work with you. I’ve been both Favorite Agent and Second in Line so I can say I think it’s fine to move forward with submitting to all the agents you would be happy to work with. If one of the agents didn’t seem like a good fit, don’t send your proposal after the meeting. No need to explain or apologize. Agents have been part of enough events to know they both drain and fulfill everyone, and a discerning eye assessing facts after the conference blush pales can change the game.
Handling Second Choices
Let’s say your first choice acts quickly with an offer. Immediately let the other agents know you are planning to sign with someone else. Then they have a chance to stop their review process. Agents don’t want to review a proposal only to find they wasted hours (or paid an assistant for those hours), because the author has already accepted another offer. Afraid of being embarrassed if the first agent doesn’t work out after all? No need to be. Just say things didn’t work out as planned and ask for the chance to resubmit.
But what if your second choice is quick to make the offer? Remember, you only submitted to agents you like so this is far from tragic. Discuss their Agency Agreement so you know the basics of the contractual relationship. Tell the agent you need to let the other agents know your new status. Then, let the others know you have received an offer that you are considering, but have not yet accepted. This will give agents who would be disappointed not to work with you a chance to act quickly with an offer of representation, while others will wish you well. Please remember everything Mother taught you about kindness and tact. I’m friends with many writers I don’t represent, and that’s the way it should be. As Steve Laube says, “Never burn a bridge.”
Have you experienced interest from several sources?
How did you handle it?
Would you do anything differently today?