Agents can't preempt you

Dear Miss Snark,

Two weeks ago, I started sending out queries. I made sure that all the agents were pretty much people I would love to have represent me. So far, I've received 3 requests to read my manuscript.

My question is about timing. Do I basically just agree to go with the person who offers representation first? I can't very well say, "hold on, some other people are reading it too, let me see what they have to say," can I? (Of course, I realize that no one may offer representation, but I want to be prepared).

Actually, that's exactly what you say.
Most of the full manuscripts I read are also being read by at least one other agent. When I think it's one I'd like to take on, I let the author know. They say "it's also being read by two other agents" or "X and Y have it too".

I make sure the author knows s/he can ask questions of me, get in touch with my clients for snarkly inside info, and pitch them on the attraction of a Snark Central agreement.

If I'm the slow one off the mark, I'll get an email saying "X has offered to sign me" from an author. Usually I say Vaya con Dog pretty quickly if I know they have an offer. One less thing to read, lots of fish in the sea, etc.

The key here is time. You can't start sending partials and fulls out after you get an offer and be able to respond in any kind of timely manner to the agent who's offered representation. There was a post earlier about using an offer as leverage with other "better" agents and I took some heat for saying "no no no". You've obviously addressed that issue correctly by sending queries to agents you'd be willing to sign with.


ORION said...

I agree with what has been said here. I queried only those agents that I felt would be good matches for my work. When more than one agent offered representation, I chose the one who was more approachable on the phone, answered my questions willingly, and who I "clicked" with.
As time passes, I am SO glad to have an agent that likes to hear from me regularly and is patient with questions.
As much as I adore Miss Snark - She has communicated her need for a bit more distance in the writer-agent relationship.
By asking how closely an agent likes to work with their
clients - you can get more information on whether that agent is for you- rather than just quickly saying,"Yes! yes! yes!" to their offer.
When I hear of writers being unhappy with their agent or going through more than one - I wonder if this is one of the reasons?

LadyBronco said...

I am definitely doing my research on agents, and am compiling a list of whom I think I will ejoy working with, once I am ready for the query stage.
I can't imagine sending out queries to every agent under the sun just for the sake of it.

Catja (green_knight) said...

Writers query agents they don't want to be represented by? Why?

If no offer comes, it's going to be a blow to the old ego - 'not even this person who I think has abominable taste wants me' and if they *do* want more, you're faced with a different dilemma - accept and work with someone you don't want to work with? Or not accept, find out that they're the only person who *would* sign you...

Nah, that way lies madness. And agents bitching a lot about unsuitable submissions. Just imagine getting a query, spending time reading it, researching where you can place it, only to have the writer say 'oh, I only queried for the fun of it, I don't really want to work with you.'

Zany Mom said...

I'm grateful for agent blogs where the agents list what they really like and what they don't like. However, most agent/agency listings aren't that comprehensive, though I've seen some agency websites recently that are fairly thorough.

For those agencies with generic listings, how do you know which agents are more likely to love your work? If my story is suspense, is a any agent who says they like suspense a good candidate?

Some agents like serial killers, others do not, but many listings are not this specific. Some agencies do not have client lists, and finding out who the author's agent is off some similar novels is like trying to unravel a government conspiracy (unless I just don't know where to look, which is highly likely).

So how does a Nitwit know who will be a good fit or not?

I'm about to start the querying process...

ORION said...

This is the point when Publishers Marketplace is invaluable.
Type in the agent's name and see what they have sold. I check the deals each morning and see what is going on.
I researched agents by seeing what they actually sold. I already knew my work would fit in with the agent who offered to represent me.

Stephen Parrish said...

When I received my first offer I sent a message to the other reading agents that said, "Circumstances now require that I ask to know where I stand." The meaning was obvious and the other offers came in quickly.

As for determining from guides, websites, published works, anecdotes, etc., which agents would be the best fit for me---that was the hardest part of the whole process.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zany Mom,

Here's what worked for me:

Google the living daylights out of the agent. You'll most likely turn up recent interviews, author blogs, and other helpful references. Don't stop at the website. That's only the starting point.

Sign up for a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace. Even if you can afford to do it for only a month ($20), you can search the database for recent deals. Not all agents list their deals, but it's an excellent resource for finding out who's selling what to whom.

Look at the acknowledgements section of recently pubbed books that are similar to yours. Often, the author will thank the agent. (This was how I ended up querying the agent I eventually signed with.)

Also, try Jeff Herman's Guide--but back it up with online research.

That said, it's tough to know exactly what an agent will truly love. So, don't be afraid. If a (reputable) agent says she reps suspense and that's what you write, go ahead and query her.

Good luck!

Second Drafter said...

An agent that interests me says she reps mystery and suspense on her site, but almost of her sales seem to be romance and YA.

Do I query her with my mystery/suspense novel?

2readornot said...

I'm assuming that if I did query a bunch at once, if one does offer and there are still some who haven't even responded to the query yet, they're just out of luck? ;) Sigh...obviously I don't want an agent who won't respond, but I know these are good agents -- they're just busy. It's been between 4 and 6 weeks since I queried.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making me rethink things. I have a full out with a response hoped for in January. I thought that I shouldn't query anyone else until the first agent said, "No thanks." After reviewing the post and these comments, I prepared queries and the proper enclosures for the next three agents on my list.

Anonymous said...

I started at the top of my agent list, which I compiled after research. All the names on it are solid, legitimate agents who work in my genre, and I sent queries to the first three.

The agent I thought was the best fit turned my query down flat with a form rejection. I'm now on number three with a request for a full manuscript. Agent number three went from query, to partial, to full within ten days, which in my head demonstrated his affinity for my writing. I'm hoping he's the one.

I originally felt that #1 was the "most desireable," because he is a "power agent." I now know that he's either too busy, or interested in something else at this point to give my work the attention I would like.

My bottom line is that I'd rather work with someone who was blown away by my writing, than someone who can fit in another sale around his big-name clients. Some huge careers are built by agents who aren't familiar names.


Elektra said...

Second Drafter, I don't know how much this helps, but...

The agents who have requested to see more of my YA book (all three of them) are ones who mainly rep other genres, and say on their sites something along the lines of "also interested.

So I'd say, if you want to work with the person, a query couldn't hurt.