8.08.2006

On Second Thought....nope

Dear Miss Snark,

I noticed a post recently by a published author who cautioned against accepting just any offer of representation. Given the necessarily subjective nature of agents‚ tastes, though, why wouldn't an unpublished writer accept the first offer of representation from her list of (legitimate, reputable) agents she queried? Assuming an agent expressed sufficient enthusiasm for my manuscript, she would have to make some pretty bizarre statements in that initial conversation for me to decline without any other offers in the wings.

Thank you for considering this question.


Well....there's an amazing amount of stuff you find out after you read the manuscript and talk to the author on the phone. I've gotten all the way to the phone call stage and pulled back. I assume writers are the same. It's entirely possible the agent is not a good fit. Miss Snark, famously distant, cruel and cold to all and sundry, is not a good match for a client who wants to be involved in every part of the process (please don't write to tell me I'm a lousy agent cause I can't stand this...just find an agent who does).

And maybe after reading the book the agent has a vision that you think is ..well...nutso.

I offered a contract to a guy who didn't like what it said and rewrote it for me. Thankfully he realized we were not a good match and pulled the plug before I did, but I would have too.

There are lots of reasons to sign on the dotted line. And more than one or two not to.

8 comments:

Eileen said...

Having the right agent- isn't just about having one that isn't a con artist. I think we should aim to set the bar a bit higher.

Do they rep anyone else in your genre? Do they have the right editor connections? Do you want an agent who does edits? How much hand holding do you want/need?

Face-to-face? said...

A follow-up question: Does Miss Snark prefer to meet a potential client before deciding to represent him/her?

Would she suggest that the writer try to meet the prospective agent, if possible?

I think Miss Snark mentioned a long time ago that client meetings / lunches are not necessarily a good use of time.

What say you, MS?

Anonymous said...

This boggles my mind because, well, you sound so NORMAL, Miss Snark. I can't imagine pulling the plug on you.

Anonymous said...

A corollary question: If you have your manuscript out to several agents, and one offers, is it good form to quickly notify the others and give them a chance to read the ms. before you say yes to the first agent? If so, how long would you give them?

Or do you simply withdraw your manuscript from the also-rans with a polite, "I now have representation, thank you"?

Anonymous said...

I think I know what the poster is talking about. At the start of the sub process you want validation. Any open (legit) door inspires feelings of grail-like discovery.

I had this experience with an agent who asked for a partial, then a full within about two weeks of each other. Not knowing, I stopped all other activity and concentrated.

The agent in question, though, upon further review, had sold one book. Many, many seminar appearances, book con appearances, lectures, etc. But only one book sale.

Deeper research, beyond google, revealed many simliar tales from different writers in different places that this agent has a tendency toward requesting, then demanding obessive re-writing, apparently targeted to some sort of a template of which only the agent is aware. The stories all told the same tale of weeks dragging to months, then seasons, re-write after re-write being exchanged with correspondence whose tone steadily degenerated from eager, to civil, to testy, to shrill.

After a while, I also got the impression of a kind of slow-motion Kathy Bates from Misery.

What you're looking for in an agent, regardless of all else, is a thick, battle-scarred business acumen. Like a manuscript, it's impossible to say what the perfect one looks like in advance, but you know it when you see it.

-kd

Anonymous said...

"Miss Snark, famously distant, cruel and cold to all and sundry" - I'm sure it will come as a shock to many, but I'm not convinced MS is really distant, cruel or cold. OTOH, thankfully, MS does tell it as she sees it, which is why we love her.

Sorry, I've been taking lessons on telling it as it is. I'll go hide in my corner and castigate myself for my moment of doubting the literal truth of anything the great Snarkiness said.

Ryan Field said...

Miss Snark, famously distant, cruel and cold to all and sundry, is not a good match for a client who wants to be involved in every part of the process (please don't write to tell me I'm a lousy agent cause I can't stand this...just find an agent who does).

This is too @#%*ing perfect. And the reason I so love this blog.

Annie Dean said...

Or do you simply withdraw your manuscript from the also-rans with a polite, "I now have representation, thank you"?

It depends on your situation. As it happened, the first offer of representation came from my first choice. She was the one I really wanted; she was the one I'd been crossing my fingers over. We'd built up a great rapport and when she offered, I had no doubts she was "The One."

So yes, I did simply write the "I'm sorry, but I have accepted an offer of representation and my material is no longer available, but I appreciate your time and interest" letters. But if your first offer comes from an agent you're not sure about, think hard before accepting. Let the agent know that you want to think it over.

As for notifying others, I'm not sure. They might perceive it as being prodded unpleasantly, or they might perceive you as a hot property. Hard to say, there. I risked full disclosure, as I had several agents interested and wound up with a fast offer from the one I wanted most. It's a bit of a gamble.