I’m very pleased to have a guest blog post from my former esteemed colleague and fellow Curtis Brown agent Ginger Clark regarding how one should handle themselves when offered the golden ticket of an offer of representation. For more information on the genres Ginger represents, her clients, and her submissions guidelines, please visit her PublishersMarketplace page.
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.
An agent’s expectations
- I expect the author will tell me “Great. I need to think about it.”
- I expect the author to ask me a lot of questions, and to do a generous amount of research about me online.
- 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.
- I expect the author will, when asked by these agents, tell them that I was the agent who offered representation.
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.”)
Do your research
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.
Agents expect there may be multiple agents interested
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.
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.
Just be cool
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.
Nathan here. Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.
Art: Gerard ter Borch – A Lady Reading a Letter