Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, November 6, 2008

When Should I Tell an Agent X?

Some of the most common questions I get in the ol' inbox are some variation of when and whether to tell an agent something. When should I tell an agent about my previous agent? When should I tell them about my pen name? When should I tell an agent about my foot fungus?

Ask no more. Or rather, if it's on this list ask no more. I'm going to put together a definitive list of when to tell an agent what. Please note that this is my list, and other agents' lists may vary.

I'm imagining this as a collaborative post and am starting with a bare bones list, so please make a note in the comments section for anything I'm missing, and I'll add it.

When should I tell an agent about my....

Previous agent: Somewhat up to you. If you want to include that you had a previous agent in order to show that you were good enough to attract one, at the very least mention that you parted on good terms. Otherwise it can wait until you're farther along in the querying process.

Pen name: I strongly prefer that an author queries me as themselves. There will be plenty of name for discussions of pen namemanship around the time you are discussing working with an agent.

Editors already considering/have considered your manuscript: In the query.

Manuscript request from another agent: If an agent asks to see your manuscript you do not need to notify the other agents you are querying.

Offer of representation: Tell the other agents who are considering your manuscript immediately, and give them a reasonable amount of time to get back to you. Also tell the agents you have queried in the past month but you haven't heard back from (see the comments section for more on this).

That you originally self-published: in the query

That you are previously published: in the query, with publishers and dates listed.

Your age: if you're under 18, in the query. If you're over 18, not really necessary.

That you have already an agent but are looking for another agent for a genre they don't rep: In the query

Your other book projects: I recommend sticking to one book project in the query, and waiting to discuss your other projects. Usually this will come up when you've received an offer of representation. When you're talking to the agent, be sure and tell them about your other projects and gauge their response.

Foot fungus: Only if you're asking an agent for a foot massage.






70 comments:

green ray said...

Nathan, re Offer of Rep, do you mean tell all the people you've sent queries to? (That could be a lot, in my case!) I'd planned on alerting those with partials and fulls. I figure if the agents with just queries get back to me, I'd tell them then. What do you think?

Nathan Bransford said...

green ray-

I went back and forth on this. I think if you queried someone recently they probably deserve a heads-up. Someone who has had your query for a year... not so much.

Maybe the agents you queried within the past month?

Gwen said...

Offer of representation: Tell the other agents who are considering your queries/manuscript immediately, and give them a reasonable amount of time to get back to you.

Nathan, HOW precisely ought you go about doing this? If you are sending out another query, do you mention it in the query letter? If an agent requests a full, but you have received an offer during the period in which they are considering it, do you just send them an email to let them know?

Memo? Formal letter/email?

Thanks. :)

Nathan Bransford said...

Don't start new queries when you have an offer. Call or e-mail the agents who are already considering your work.

Ulysses said...

Follow up question:

How do I find an agent that gives foot massages? And is it better to go with a Shiatsu agent, or a Tui-Na?

I want to make sure, regardless of the fate of my book, that my feet are in good hands.

green ray said...

thanks, Nathan. I like the one-month idea. My mail program saves outgoing emails for one month. I could just go down the list. (BTW, appreciated your almost political post yesterday!)

mlh said...

You had me up to the foot fungus, then all the other advice flew out my head.

Next time, Nathan, please put up warning signs when you drop something like that in there.

Foot fungus...eww...

Anonymous said...

If an agent has asked for rewrites and you've made them, should you offer to send the revised work to agents who also have the full or just let it lie?

Nathan Bransford said...

mlh-

Watch out! This blog is dangerous!

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Good question. If you just sent it to them I'd say go ahead and re-send the revised MS, but if they've had it a while I'd just let it lie. I admit to getting testy when I've gotten a ways through something only to find out I have to re-read it because the author changed it on me.

Derek Gentry said...

And if nobody has expressed any level of interest in your work...is there someone you should notify then?

Justus said...

Nathan,

Thanks for the awesome blog. I'm relatively new to writing, so all these tips are delicious!

lauren said...

Nathan, thanks for this post! One follow-up question, though: should I tell agents when an editor is considering my manuscript? I had an editor request my full via a (reputable) contest I won. While she's reviewing it, I'm assuming it's okay to query agents, right? Do I need to let the agents know which house and which editor are looking at the full?

I've been looking for the answer to this question in your archives and in other agent blog archives, but I've yet to find it. Thanks in advance!

Nathan Bransford said...

Lauren-

Good one!!

I'll add that.

Kat Harris said...

Foot massages? Will those be offered with the MFA classes?

Seriously, though. Do writers need to put in their query letter that he/she isn't the only agent being queried? Or do agents take that for granted now?

Nathan Bransford said...

kat-

I understand there is a difference of opinion among agents on that one. I assume people are querying widely, but other agents feel differently.

So....... don't know what to say on that one.

Anonymous said...

If you're still reading this, I have a question. I recently went to a conference where two very good agents requested pages. I also had an editor request the first 50 pages. I told them I am rewriting the final chapters and need to finish revisions.

I'll, of course, hold off on the editor and tell the agents about him.

Would it be considered rude to query other agents as well or should I submit to the two from the conference first?

Nathan Bransford said...

I'd feel free to query widely. Even though you met the agents at the conference you just never know.

Amy Nathan said...

In reference to Kat's question, I'm currently compiling my list of agents to query and have found a few that want to know if it's a multiple submission. I'd say pay close attention to that - make sure you add it to your letter for those agents. For most, though, I think it's a given and that most agents (like Nathan) encourage querying widely.

Briane P said...

Every day I come here and read and every day the business of writing becomes both more complex and better explained.

Are you suggesting telling the other agents in order to give them a chance to offer to represent you, too? Or is it just politeness? (Notice how, as a lawyer, politeness came SECOND for me.)

Nathan Bransford said...

briane-

Both.

AmyB said...

Nathan, I'm querying one novel and revising a second (unrelated) novel, and I was wondering: if I should query agents for this second novel who requested and rejected a partial or full for my first novel, should I mention that in the query letter? Or should I just write the query letter as if we've never had any correspondance?

Elyssa Papa said...

Nathan,

What if you get an offer of representation for book 2, but two agents have book 1 (that they've had for awhile)...should you let them know you have an offer on book 2 even though you only queried them on book 1?

And how long is a reasonable amount of time to give agents to read a manuscript when you have an offer on the table?

Thanks for this blog! I was wondering about the whens of notification for some time.

Nathan Bransford said...

amyb-

If they requested a partial before, I'd remind them. If it was a form rejection, I wouldn't.

elyssa-

Yes, tell them, and I'd give them a week or two to get back to you.

Sara J. Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jael said...

Here's a slight variation on the "previous agent" issue -- if the book itself has been previously submitted to editors by a previous agent, you'd better let the agent know. Nathan, I'd be curious to know when you'd want to get that information.

On a writing board I subscribe to, someone mentioned they didn't tell agent 2 that agent 1 had submitted the book to editors until the offer of rep had been extended and accepted. I was horrified they'd waited that long. But then when I thought about it, I couldn't decide exactly when the right point is in the process to tell them. When they're considering the full, I guess? (Though I know the best answer is 'write another book', and that's the one I've personally done.)

Nathan Bransford said...

jael-

I'd want to know in the query (and updated the post). There's no sense in me reading the manuscript if there's nothing I can do for it.

Lolita Flowers said...

Thanks Nathan, I am about to contact another agent and you have provided me with sound protocol.

lotusloq said...

Another very helpful post--especially the continuing answers in the comments section! Thanks!

Ryan Field said...

I told mine everything. I thought it was important to start off on the right foot fungus.

Samuel said...

When do I tell my agent that, thank you very much, it's not you, it's me, I hope we can still be friends, but, really, enough's enough: you said you'd get back to me within two weeks, it's now been nine, and, though I realise this may come as a surprise because I've never hassled you or given any indication that I'm running out of patience, and - honestly - I did appreciate the unprompted apology you left on my cell after week four had whistled on by, the fact remains that you've still not - as we march headlong into month three - read the script?

AmyB said...

Thanks, Nathan! This has been a helpful thread.

Crimogenic said...

Samuel, is nine weeks really that long? I'm guessing you're referring to a submission... I thought it was customary to give the agent 3 months on submissions.

Samuel said...

Hi crimogenic! I totally agree that nine weeks wouldn't be that long at all for a normal unagented submission. But he's already my agent (though I am unpublished). I'm hoping the rules might be a little different. I'm going to give him until the end of this week and if I still haven't heard back, well, so long, bucko! (though I seem to remember saying this very same thing this time last week.)

Michelle Moran said...

Samuel,

If I was in your situation, before firing I would have a calm phone conversation asking why the script hasn't been read and whether the agent still has the same enthusiasm for your work or whether it would be better to part ways. Then, depending on the answer, I would take it from there and either wait a few more weeks or send a certified letter in the mail.

Adaora A. said...

You go above and beyond the call of duty good gentleman. I hope your clients have been sending you that care package (complete with spicy food, bourbon, drunk monkey videos, complete boxed season(s) of THE HILLS, and a complete collection of Ian McEwan novels).

My care package would be along the lines of all things John Grisham, Chinese food, Chardonnay, Cosmopolitans, Pinny Pizza, Daniel Radcliffe movies, Harry Potters books, the list could go on forever. Haha!

Seriously though, this is pretty cool. It's nice to get these kinds of questions answered.

Anonymous said...

Nathan;

Not sure if this questions falls under this category but thought I would ask it anyways.
If you get a response from an agent, months later, and its a "Thank you very much, but not interested", but the letter you received had someone else's name on it, and cited someone else's title, would it be okay to let that agent know?

Samuel said...

Thanks Michelle - I'll definitely take that on board. I absolutely agree that it's vital to remain calm and polite at all times: it's too small an industry to risk getting a reputation for being difficult.

Nathan Bransford said...

Sure -- doesn't hurt to make sure you got the right response.

Adam Heine said...

When should I tell an agent that I don't reside in the same country as they do?

L.C.McCabe said...

Nathan,

Here's some trivia for you. The scientific name for Athlete's foot is tinea pedis. It is also known as ringworm. Unfortunately the name "ringworm" was given back in the day before the real causative agent was understood. It was thought to be caused by worms when it pathogenic fungi is the culprit.

Similarly Infectious Mononucleosis was named when it was thought there was a high monocyte count rather than understanding that lymphocytes react strangely to that virus and look funky under the microscope.

My day job is as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist or lab rat, so I know these things.

Thanks for your insight and for the laugh at the end.

Oh and do your best to avoid all forms of ringworm, especially tinea cruris.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm wondering when you learn that a manuscript has been previously shopped, what would be the factors in rejecting it vs. accepting it? Assuming you really really like--would it be the amount of time that passed? The number of editors that it was submitted to?
I have a friend who's agent will not let her book die--because every few months the editors who've read it move on etc...and they resubmit.
Thoughts?

Thanks!

Freya Croft said...

Nathan - if you do get that wonderful offer of rep, but you want to tell those who still have your work (and may be higher up on your agent wish list LOL) my question is -
How long can you take before you accept the offer?

bloggingexperiments said...

Nathan-

GREAT post! This info is priceless. Here are some timing questions...

How long can you wait to send in requested materials? (maybe you started revising, again)

Does an agent expect the requested materials immediately?

How long can you wait before accepting an offer of representation?

Thanks,

Abi

Kylie said...

Nathan-

When should you mention that you have sequel/series ideas or outlines for the book you're trying to sell? Would that be in the query, once they've expressed an interest, once they're representing you, etc.?

Thanks.

ChristaCarol said...

I applaud you, good sir, especially in knowing you knew the amount of questions that would be flying your direction :) You've been great in answering them all.

I, too, am interested in the question regarding revisions and resubmitting. Say, hypothetically, an agent suggests revisions but in the end decides not to rep. Say I take those suggestions, revise the ms, can I resubmit to other agents? And if so, what's a good time length to wait before doing so? And how exactly would I word it in the query? Sorry, 3 questions in one. But if you're offering for us to pick your brain, you know we're gonna be zombies about it :D

Amanda Kelly said...

Long time reader, first time commenter; I think this might be a good opportunity to ask a question that only very recently came to mind. Perfect timing!

Perhaps you lived in, say, Australia, and had queried a couple of editors there, before deciding to query agents in America. How does the 'editors and houses queried' factor come into play there? Do knockbacks in one country affect the potential of a foreign rights deal sold to that country at a later date, or if you queried the Australian branch of a big international house, will it count as the American branch having seen it too? If so or no, when should you inform an international agent that an editor or two from your home country had seen the work?

Sorry for the complicated question, it's just something that occurred to me recently that I thought I may need to know someday if things don't go so well with my querying Down Under :)

Thanks, and thanks for all the advice in your blog thus far! It's been a fantastic help to me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan,

What if you're writer who works for another agent and though the agent you work for is very distinguished they don't rep your genre? Is it okay to mention this or is it totally awkward and unprofessional?

Moose said...

Will you give me a foot massage? I have no foot fungus, just a slight case of leprosy - which is bacterial, not fungal.

Robin Minnick said...

Okay, I may regret this, but... you have a book that was not POD or self-published, but published by a very teeny company and sold VERY limited copies. Some people would not even consider it published. You have the rights back. You revise it, time passes, you revise it again, and again, and it's so much better. You want to try a more traditional publishing route. When do you tell the agent(s) you're querying that it was once-upon-a-time published by that oh-so-teeny-company? (I've had people tell me 'never')

hannah said...

Hi Nathan--

I don't know if you've written about this before, so sorry if this a repeat question. What's your opinion on when under-eighteens should reveal their ages to prospective agents? While I was querying, I heard a lot of conflicting advice--on the one hand, you don't want to turn off an agent immediately or come off as if you're expecting special treatment, on the other, you don't want to leave it until the offer's on the table and discover then that an agent isn't willing to work with a teenager (this actually happened to a friend of mine.)

I actually dodged this bullet myself, as my soon-to-be agent mentioned me on the phone to one of her clients, a friend of mine, who replied with, "And isn't it awesome she's only sixteen?" I was wondering if you had advice for those who aren't so lucky. Thanks!

Julie Weathers said...

Nathan, I know a person should only mention one work in a query. At what point should a person ask the agent if they are interested in a different project than your query subject?

It seems like it would be much more efficient to have one agent handle all of your work if possible.

BarbS. said...

Here's a tale: I politely advised an agent that another agent wanted to represent me after the advisee became embroiled in a recent, notorious scandal. It was the only way I could think of distancing myself from that person with any shred of professionalism.

BarbS. said...

PS: Oh1 and If I may add to Nathan's comment about pen names: sometimes a writer gets to the point where there's the feeling it's not needed any more. In my case, I just got tired of a) explaining it all the time, though it's a lovely inside joke around here; and b) some of my French readers were mistaking me for a man. Not a bad thing, but en francais, gender sort of wreaks havoc with pronouns and adjectives. :P

superwench83 said...

Haven't had time to scan the comments, so sorry if someone else already mentioned this. Another reason it's a good idea not to query with a pen name is because an agent might feel that your pen name isn't the best name to use. A friend of mine recently had her agent tell her that her pen name didn't sound right for the genre she was writing in, and suggested that she change it.

Justus said...

Superwench83,

So, we shouldn't use a pen name such as "Slash Bones" if we're writing Historical Fiction? ;)

Zoe Winters said...

hahaha, I would totally seek agent representation if I thought foot massages came with the package.

C.D. Reimer said...

I have an idea for a book trilogy on the back burner. I might write the whole thing first to get it right without being under pressure for a contract. Assuming that I don't have an agent for my other books when I get done with this project, should I query only book one or all three?

Nathan Bransford said...

Hey everyone, I updated the post with the questions that came in yesterday night. Hope I got everything. I didn't answer everything because some are covered in the FAQs and aren't directly pertinent to this post, so please check out those.

Grymalkyn said...

Nathan,
this is a great post. One Q you don't seem to have answered was ...

Robin Minnick said... on
November 6, 2008 8:03 PM

He asked about POD and very small publishers, I'd be interested to kow what you think on this too. Could you give us your take?

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

Nathan - thank you. Another question, I'm afraid - between 'agent requests full' and 'agent offers representation' there seems to be a possible alternative of 'agent asks you to do extensive revisions, which may lead to representation.' that seems to be kind of like going steady, or maybe pinned, but not engaged yet. Do you tell the other possible suitors?

Anonymous said...

Nathan,

(Is this posting still open for Q and A?)

But would telling an agent about your young age affect their perception of your manuscript? Would they be looking at it with a less critical eye...? More critical...?

I know age becomes a factor when it comes to signing things, but what are the results of revealing it in your query letter? I didn't do that with my first few queries, and I'm preparing to send more soon, so getting smarter about it would be a good thing. :)

To God be the glory,
A SF writer

Elaine Williams said...

Wonderful information, and thank you for sharing. Many times it's difficult to figure out what, when and how, even for those of us who have been involved in the publishing industry for some time. Elaine

Anonymous said...

When is it appropriate to send a nudge on a query that received no response? I know many people consider email Q's to be informal, but it seems many agents don't reply at all, even when a beloved form rejection would suffice.

Anonymous said...

What about when to tell an agent about publishing credits you're not particularly proud of (but that are in the same genre as the book you are shopping around)?

Brett said...

Nathan, I was just wondering. Do you (or agents in general) discount authors younger than 18? I have heard that falling into that age group can give me a definite disadvantage. Also, how necessary is it to put my age in the query letter?

NervousScholar said...

Dear Nathan,

I am a more than competent writer, but my speciality is historical pioneering/discovery.

My question is: due to the sensitive nature of some of the work, how might I formulate an approach? For example, if I told you I had discovered a 'missing link' or another Egyptian pyramid, how might my submission be altered to reflect the nature, or maximise the potential of the topic?

I've made a few headlines, published a series of innovative history articles, and discovered a great many amazing things.

Problem is, I'm only 29!

Heeeelp! :)

Hannah said...

I read your advice for under 18's, but was wondering, I'm 16, say my manuscript is really good, will I have less chance of getting published because I'm young?

thanks

Hannah

Anonymous said...

Nathan,or perhaps I should refer to you as Mr. Bransford being that I'm only 17. I wasn't planning on including my age within my queries, but if interest was shown, say a request for a partial, I would have given my age then. My question then: Is it absolutely necessary to put my age in my query or for the sake of avoiding some subconscious disapproval from an agent may I leave it out?

Anonymous said...

oops, sorry for sending multiples!

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