Am I Your One True Love?

Dear Miss Snark:

I am looking for a new literary agent, after spending a few (unfruitful - ie she didn't sell anything) years with a very respected agent who has been around for dogs years and has a very full client list (I felt I wasn't on her radar, really).

I am in the process of querying several people. One young person at a very large, well-known literary and talent agency asked me point blank if I were approaching several people - I parried, and referred to the agent I just
jettisoned. My feeling is it's simply not necessary for her to know what I am doing or am not doing, since she has not offered to represent me - she's still working on reading a proposal and a few very short book chapters for a nonfiction project.

Was I (or am I) under any obligation to inform her I'm shopping?


Most of us know where we rank in the pantheon. I'd be a self obsessed idiot (rather than just self obsessed) if I thought you were shopping for a new agent and only talking to one person. Now, were I Binky Urban, Nicole Aragi or Jenny Bent..well, that's a horse in a different neighborhood.

Mostly we ask cause we want to know what the competition is and who else has her claws into you.

You can finess it by saying "I'm investing a great deal of thought and energy into finding a good match".

Don't lie ("you're my one and only") and don't name the competition ("you're number six ..but with a bullet!").

It sounds like you're doing exactly the right thing.


Anonymous said...

What if a successful writer-friend personally refers you to his/her agent? (Who is very succesful, but maybe not your top pick.) If that agent offered representation it would seem rude to say, "Thanks, but I'm waiting to hear from the other twenty top agents I sent the proposal to." It seems a bit like dating--you want to be alluring, but not TOO hard to catch, lest you don't ever get caught. What is a good response in this scenario?

nessie said...

I noticed that on some websites they write that they only accept queries that have not been sent to several other agents at the same time.

Is there some block-book or secret messenger that am missing? Should we even bother to take not of that small print they have at the bottom of the page OR is this serious and can jeapordize a relationship that have been crossing all ten digits to get?


Inez said...

So--if your agent can't sell the books is it time to switch agents? Is that what this post means?
(Is that my next step?)

Anonymous said...

So why do agents bloody well ask this question? You said "mostly we ask because we want to know what the competition is and who else has her claws into you." Does that mean a potential client is more attractive because other agents are looking at her, or less attractive because other agents are looking at her?

I was never good at the dating game.

Anonymous said...

too many years have gone by where I believed the line 'no simultaneous submissions.' no self-respecting employer would solicit job apps w/that proviso - I personally *do not* do one-sided commitments in any other area of my life - (literary, professional, romantic, inter-species) - and don't believe agents should have a special exemption...