Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Guest Blog: Ginger Clark on How to Handle an Offer of Representation

After running last week's Largely Indispensible First Paragraph Contest (and, um, people are still entering paragraphs. It's over, man. Let it go.), I am now much in need of some R&R - Rest and Reconstitution-of-the-liver.

So I'm very pleased to have a guest blog post today from my esteemed colleague and fellow Curtis Brown agent Ginger Clark regarding how one should handle themselves when offered the golden ticket of representation. For more information on the genres Ginger represents, her clients, and her submissions guidelines, please visit her PublishersMarketplace page.

Thanks, Ginger!!!



Dear Nathan’s many, many readers:

Nathan very kindly said I could write an entry for his blog about handling an offer of representation. Recently, an author contacted me saying they’d been offered representation by another agency. I congratulated them, asked them a couple of questions…and things went downhill from there. I realized afterwards that perhaps this author just didn’t know how to handle a situation where one agent offers representation and there are multiple other agents considering your work.

So here is what I expect to happen when I contact an author and offer representation:

1. I expect the author will tell me "Great. I need to think about it."
2. I expect the author to ask me a lot of questions, and to do a generous amount of research about me online.
3. I expect the author will then call or email any other agents who are considering their work and let them know they have an offer of representation.
4. I expect the author will, when asked by these agents, tell them that I was the agent who offered representation.

Here’s why:

1. When you are deciding on an agent, don’t rush into the relationship. I never, ever pressure a potential client for an immediate answer. Take a day or more to think over whether you want to work with me. And if an agent is pressuring you to give you an answer that day, be wary. (If an agent ever tells you, “I need an answer today,” just say something like, “well, if you have to have an answer now, my answer is no. I don’t make major career decisions without taking a night to sleep on it.”)

2. Do your research. I have a Publishers Marketplace page, and I’m easily found on Google. Ask me as many questions as you want. If you want to talk to clients, that can be arranged. If you forget to ask me a question on the phone, you can email me later to ask.

3. This happens regularly to me, and while I grumble to myself about having to compete with other wonderful agents, I am perfectly fine with being in a multiple horse race. I'm positive I'd be the right agent for you--but I could be wrong.

4. Several times recently an author whose work I was considering told me they had an offer of representation from another agent, but then refused to tell me who the agent was. Look--I will answer almost all questions a potential client asks me; I'll chat with them at length about my experience and how I’d market the book; I've even let some authors speak to some of my clients (with my foreknowledge and permission, of course). I will be completely forthcoming with a potential client; and yet they would not do the same for me. I am immediately wary when this happens, and hesitant about working with the author further.

Further, I do have legitimate reasons for wanting to know. The first is, I want to make sure the author has not been approached by a scam artist, or a well-intentioned but incompetent agent. Secondly, I admit—I want to know who I am up against in the horse race. And thirdly, I’m probably going to have to bump some clients from the top of my reading pile in order to read work that has interest elsewhere. I want to make sure I’m putting aside work for my clients for something that really does have legitimate interest.

I’m sure most of you know this already, but in case you didn’t, I hope it helps. Really, just be professional, calm, confident, and honest.






44 comments:

Tammie said...

Oh it does help and thanks for blogging about it.

Now to getting that call so I can refer to it!

Heidi said...

Thanks Ginger! Good etiquette is so important, but so tricky in this field! Thank you for letting me know what you expect both as an offering agent and a considering agent.

bria said...

Thanks Ginger. I'm sure this is a problem we all hope to encounter one day. I had wondered how agents felt about the call/email - if it felt like pressure or not.

Laura said...

Hi Ginger,

Thank you, it is helpful to know how to properly respond to the first contact from an agent. With so many unknowns in this business it's nice to have a little heads up.

Michael said...

Oh, to have the problem of multiple offers...

Thanks for the advice on what to do should it ever arise.

Marva said...

I would think that Point #2 should be handled before you even query the agent. Why would I send off a query to somebody I know nothing about? Of course, followup questions not answered by the other resources are appropriate.

All around good advice. Now, I'll have to practice saying "I'll get back to you after I sleep on it." Of course, authors always have the initial urgent desire to scream YES YES YES into the telephone.

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

I started typing a comment about authors becoming so used to being the hunter rather than the hunted. Then my mind filled with scenes of deer being chased from the forest, and I completely lost my train of thought.

Too long in front of a computer screen, I think.

Nathan, enjoy your R&R.

Thank you, Ginger, for this excellent advice.

Precie said...

Thanks very much for your excellent advice, Ginger!

Ithaca said...

It would be great if doing research online turned up the kind of information one needs, but it never seems to. I am also a bit pessimistic (maybe unduly so) about getting to the bottom of things by asking penetrating questions. The thing is - there are people with a real gift for getting their way in a telephone conversation, and the people who are successful agents tend to be people with that gift. I once eavesdropped on a couple of publishing execs who were assessing contracts with a publishing company, all of which they thought were for ludicrous amounts of money. 'Barking,' said one. 'Positively barking.' 'Oh,' they kept saying, 'it's an Ed Victor deal.' In other words, Ed Victor got on the phone, and the rest was history. Writers tend not to be people with that gift. So if I were to get on the phone with Ed Victor or Andrew Wylie or, of course, anyone else with that very rare gift, I might ask all kinds of questions, and have many misgivings, but if Mr Victor or Mr Wylie had decided he wanted me for a client the result would be a foregone conclusion. Actually pretty much anyone who did not have an actual phobia of the telephone could talk me into pretty much anyone (this is why having an agent is so crucial in the first place).

I am not disagreeing with any of the points made in principle, just doubtful that the sort of person who is not herself agent material could stand her ground in conversation with the sort of person who demonstrably is agent material. One needs an agent to deal with one's agent. And an agent to deal with the agent who...

Amanda said...

Thank you for your sage wisom Ginger!!!

BTW I luvvv your name! It's ADORABLE!!

If an agent called me I probably wouldn't ask any questions at all because I would be to busy SCREAMING MY HEAD OFF!! The neighbors would probably call the police and say the lady next door is getting murdered LOL

Not really but I would be excited!!

^_^

Mystery Robin said...

That's excellent advice, thank you Ginger. I know that if I'm ever fortunate enough to be in that situation that I'd be very nervous about asking an agent for a day to think over other offers - as if they'd all go up in smoke in those 24 hours. It's good to know that you expect that and what professionalism looks like in this situation!

Karen Duvall said...

I can't imagine why an author would refuse to reveal the names of the other interested agents. Unless *cough* there were no other *cough* agents making an offer. Heh. I'm suspicious like that. 8^) Mainly because I've heard this advice actually given to authors seeking representation. Desperate and bizarre, but true.

Melanie Avila said...

Ginger, thanks for the helpful advice. I'm not at the querying stage myself but I've heard many writers voice the concerns you've addressed. Just knowing we're not expected to agree to representation in the first five seconds makes this a little less scary.

Great article!

Bernita said...

Thank you very much, Ms. Chark.

Anonymous said...

"I want to make sure I’m putting aside work for my clients for something that really does have legitimate interest."

So it takes someone else being interested to jump the line. This is so frustrating.

Chessie

Precie said...

karen--I have a suspicious mind too! That was my first guess as to why an author wouldn't reveal the name of an offering agent. I've heard of people stamping "Requested Material" on their unrequested submissions for the same reason. Not very nice or professional.

Jennifer L. Griffith said...

Thanks for your insight, Ginger.

There are so many details most unpubbed authors don't know about this process. I am so thankful for agents like Nathan who hosts a blog, and the guests who come along side of him, all offering valuable info for those who seekers.

Nathan is one blessed man to have such competent women helping him out when he's bombarded with first lines, paragraphs and the aftermath of all of the "self-imposed" above...May, Anne and now you, Ginger.

Rest up, Nathan. You never know what's around the next curve of the blogosphere. First 1000 words??? 2000?

Neptoon said...

Mahalo Ginger for the enlightenment.

I shall keep your tips within reach. But do you really think a budding author could sleep...after an interested agent call?

Heather M. said...

Ginger, thanks so much for an informative post (and thanks Nathan for facilitating). Your suggestions will certainly help the lucky ones navigate an intense experience.

Welshcake said...

Thank you Ms Clarke.

Karen and Precie - I thought that too. I've a suspicious mind.

Chessie - I understand your frustration but (and maybe I'm naive saying this) I do believe if the writing is good enough you'll snag the agent's attention and 'jump the line' whether or not there are other offers on the table.

After all if an agent sits on a project waiting to see if others show interest, they risk losing a potentially excellent client.

A Paperback Writer said...

Hey, thanks, Ginger. I'd never thought much about what to do besides a little Snoopy suppertime/victory dance. I hope that some day I get to follow your advice.

Tom Burchfield said...

Excellent advice. Thank you, Ginger! I wish to ad that of course, in just approaching any agent, I'll have already tried to some do advance scouting (or as they say in the legal field "due diligence").

ORION said...

When my agent offered she was my top choice and I already knew I would say yes. She wondered who were the other agents considering my work and I of course I told her- I wondered later if I had done the right thing and in retrospect I realized I had.
I think the difficulty is when a writer is trying to use one offer of representation to turn into an offer from an agent they REALLY want.
It does make sense that when other agents are interested that ups the ante.
It's human nature.

Josephine Damian said...

Karen, I'm with you! If was an agent and someone said they had multiple offers from agents, I'd say: Show me! Prove it! Send me the emails!

Ginger, thanks for the post and for giving Nathan a much needed break!

Sophie W. said...

Thanks for the awesome post, Ginger. It answers a lot of questions. There's so much information out there about how to get an agent, but almost nothing about what to do after the fact.

Colorado Writer said...

Thank you for the timely post!

Anonymous said...

No, I wouldn't want to loose that opportunity, so no cc's from me. :)

Anonymous said...

lose

midnight oil said...

Thanks for your advice! I looked at your page and found that you are into my type of book. That being said, what is the rule on querying two different agents within the same company? (not saying I will do this as I have been ghosting Nathan for some time now, so he gets first right of refusal.)and I thought it was a "no no" to call an agent unless they already represented you.

Danette Haworth said...

Thank you, Ginger! Excellent post.

JulieWeathers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cate said...

Thank you Ms. Clark, for sharing your insight. Here's to hoping I can put this into practice one day soon...

JulieWeathers said...

Thank you for posting this information. It does help a great deal.

Anonymous said...

I'm planning on sending out a round of submissions pretty soon, so this information is very useful for me. Let me just see if I hae this correct. If I send out eight partials (in the UK, so the query process is bypassed), and I was to get an offer of representation from one agent, I assume the best thing to do would be to ask for some time to think, and then let the other agents know I have received an offer.

The thing is, if they then decide to request the full, what do I do then? Is it rude of me to ask the offering agent to wait a week or so while I see what the response is from the other agents? Or is that expected?

I only ask because in this post you mentioned a decision being made in 24 hours. Isn't it a bit ambitious to expect me to ship out a manuscript to the other agents (assuming they request the full) in time for it to get there the next day? And then to expect these agents to read the complete manuscript and make a decision in a matter of hours? I don't want to tread on anyone's toes here. Surely the offering agent wouldn't mind if I ask for a little more time than 24 hours?

Southern Writer said...

That was nice. I like the simple and honest way you wrote it.

Nathan Bransford said...

From Ginger Clark:

Midnight Oil: You really are not supposed to query two agents at the same time, but people do this all the time. Secondly, it is fine to call an agent if you have an offer of representation elsewhere. That is one of the few exceptions to the rule of never calling agents.

Anon 4:18 AM: I think I said take at least a day to make the decision about representation. The offering agent will probably be willing to wait longer if you want to talk to other agents—asking for a week is not at all rude.

Anonymous said...

It's Anon 4:18 here. Thanks a lot for responding to my question. I'm trying to make sure all my dealings with agents are conducted as professionally as possible, and it's so great to have helpful agents around that can offer advice on things like this.

Michael said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on getting an offer of representation. I keep learning so many things about the publishing industry that writers are expected to know, but no one ever tells them. I appreciate tips like this very much.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
midnight oil said...

Thank you for answering, I look forward to future blogs from you. The info was awsome for us unrepresented who do not want to step on toes.

Denae said...

I'm reading your blog for the first time today but will be back often. I mostly write adventure articles for a UK publication but am thinking about proposing a book idea. (New territory here.) This site offers a wealth of FREE info and I wanted to say thanks.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous advice, Ginger. Thank you. Frankly, a few of your comments are some that I never thought about when sending a query to an agent. I've always tried to be honest when dealing with anyone in this business. I consider that common courtesy and would hope to have the favor returned.

Liz Kreger
www.lizkreger.com

Paul Äertker said...

Ginger: Thanks for posting--would love to read your blog! ;)

Related Posts with Thumbnails