What to do when your offer of representation isn’t as simple as you thought

So, you’ve got an offer of representation. Now what?

When you played this scenario in your head perhaps you thought it would be simple or one of a few situations:

  • I submit to my first choice agent and we connected.
  • I go through a few months of rejections and land the agent that really loves my work.
  • Or, I go through months of rejections and suggested revisions and get an offer, but I don’t know whether I should take it or something else will come along?

There are countless scenarios that involve rejection, revisions, unsure feelings, emotions you haven’t yet felt about your work or even want to feel.

You thought the hardest part was writing the book? Wrong. What comes after is so much harder.

Finding an agent that shares your vision is ideal for both authors and agents. It is a complex relationship filled with marketing, creative writing, accounting, therapy and more. So this complexity lends itself to complicated ways of finding each other. Perhaps when you started the querying process you thought you and a particular agent were a great fit (maybe you even did revisions with them), but as you got to work with them maybe it wasn’t right after all? What if the agent you weren’t sure about, but queried anyway was the one who ‘got’ it and you couldn’t be happier.

On to multiple offers. This can make things more difficult or much easier. Best case scenario: the multiple offers shed light on the differences between the two agents and you gravitate to one based on similar values and desired outcomes. However, multiple offers can be confusing because the agents are not comparable. One has a strong and reputable track record, but has less time to career develop with each of her numerous clients? Another is building a track record, but is eager to devote attention and time to a smaller list of clients? There are agents throughout this spectrum with different strengths so by asking questions and doing research you can find the best alignment for the work you are querying with and your literary career.

How do I know it’s a good fit?

  • Ask what they like about your book.
  • Ask if they had revisions to suggest and what they are. Do you agree?
  • Ask the agent where they were thinking of submitting to and see if you feel the same.
  • Ask if they offer representation for one book or for your career.
  • Ask what their communication style is like. Email? Phone? Bi-weekly or as things happen? Are you comfortable with that? Are you ready to hear the good and the bad from this person and their communication method?
  • Communicate your vision for your current manuscript and your career to potential agents and make sure you’re on the same track.

I have had clients pick me from multiple offers and I’ve lost potential clients to multiple offers, but it is ultimately the writer’s choice based on their expectations from an agent/author relationship. Agents want clients that want to be with them.

Lesson to take away: Finding the right agent isn’t a matter of checklists and Venn diagrams, it’s a complex situation that you won’t know how to navigate until you’re there. So learn as much about it as you can online and from represented friends. Ask the right questions so when you do find yourself with one or multiple offers, you’ll be best educated. And even then, you’ll have a decision to make that no one else can make for you.

Further Reading:

When Agents Offer Representation from AgentQuery

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

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