the Agent you came to the dance with

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
Damon Shulenberger
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the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by Damon Shulenberger » April 11th, 2010, 2:31 pm

A couple months ago I started sending out queries about my novel. Got a fairly in-depth reply from an agent who liked my work. She suggested taking time to revise it thoroughly and submit it to her again when I was through that process. I did, and she re-read and requested various further changes. She never asked for an exclusive but has seemed quite engaged with the work throughout.

Last week another, well-established, agent contacted me and told me that she had read the partial, liked it and wanted to set a time to chat on the phone. We did so and again, there was active interest and suggestions for revisions. A two week deadline has been set for her to read the entire mss. and get back to me. I gave the other agent a heads up on this and suggested that two-week deadline for reaching a decision.

I don`t think it is a case of one agent being significantly better than the other, and I know there is a chance that one or both of them will ultimately pass. I think either could do an adequate of pitching my work.

My question is, all things being equal, would one stick with the agent who first expressed interest, and prodded the needed revisions? The thing that puzzles me is, if she was interested, why the first agent never asked for an exclusive. Does this indicate that she thought my work a long shot, was simply trying to hedge her bets in case I came up with something spectacular? Does this give me (a guilt-free) license to sign with the new agent?

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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by A.M.Kuska » April 11th, 2010, 3:51 pm

That's a hard one. I think if they both want your work, you choose which ever one works best with you.

I research all of the agents I intend to send my work to extensively. I want to know what books they've sold, I want to see if their writing style is similar to mine, and if I like the agent's attitude. (Blogs are helpful for this.) The problem with that is, I only send to agents I like a lot and would love to have as an agent. If I sent my query to both Donald Maass and Nathan Bransford, and they both wanted it...I'd probably pull my hair out trying to make a decision. I mean come on. I own every writing book Donald Maass has ever written, and I've read Menagerie Manor represented by Nathan Bransford, and waiting for one other that hasn't come out yet. You can't top that. ^^

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taylormillgirl
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by taylormillgirl » April 11th, 2010, 3:56 pm

I have zero experience with literary agents, but it seems to me that by not asking for an exclusive or offering a contract, agent #1 was basically saying "Meh, I like your work, but not enough to commit." If agent #2 makes an offer and you like him/her, I don't see any reason to feel guilty about accepting. Like you, if both agents were equal, I'd prefer to work with the agent who spend the most time helping me out, but it seems like agent #1 just isn't that enthusiastic about representing you.
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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » April 11th, 2010, 4:05 pm

I'd disagree with taylor a bit. The agent isn't doing all that work just for the fun of it. Some agents like to slap down the contract right away and then work on all the editing stuff. Others might like the writing, but working on the editing first lets them get to know you and whether you'll work well together. It's a more patient approach, but doesn't necessarily indicate any less passion about the work.

I think the agent who has done all the work in helping your book should probably have that as a mark in their favour, and they'll certainly expect you to consider that when it comes to a decision about representation. But I also think they know there's a possibility you'll go somewhere else. That's the risk in their choice, in following a more patient philosophy. And I don't think they would adopt such an approach if they were unwilling to accept the possible consequences.

But the work they put in should count for something, at least in my opinion.
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

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taylormillgirl
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by taylormillgirl » April 11th, 2010, 4:22 pm

I hear 'ya, Ink, but why wouldn't agent #1 ask for an exclusive during revisions? That just doesn't make sense to me.
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taylormillgirl
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by taylormillgirl » April 11th, 2010, 4:34 pm

taylormillgirl wrote:I hear 'ya, Ink, but why wouldn't agent #1 ask for an exclusive during revisions? That just doesn't make sense to me.
ETA: It reminds me of one of Nathan's blog posts. He requests an exclusive before working with an author during revisions because the idea of an author going with another agent after Nathan puts in all the hours of editing, etc. gives him the dry heaves. It was a powerful visual, and I never forgot that day's blog!

ETA 2: Here's the dry heave link: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2008/08 ... gents.html

Nice illustration of showing vs. telling, too, because I can totally picture it!
Last edited by taylormillgirl on April 11th, 2010, 7:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Author of hot & humorous romances, debut novel coming in 2012 from Sourcebooks!
http://macybeckett.com/

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » April 11th, 2010, 5:32 pm

Actually, Nathan doesn't ask for exclusivity before offering editorial feedback. Though I suppose I should leave him to confirm or deny that. Might get my paw slapped! I've been wrong before. I once sprayed on shaving cream under my shirt thinking it was a spray deodorant. So now we no how far I can be trusted...
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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » April 11th, 2010, 5:36 pm

(Though, even if I'm right, he might still get the dry heaves... )

:)
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by tameson » April 11th, 2010, 7:12 pm

I think Nathan also mentioned that sometimes he likes to see how the two actually work together. By not pinning you on the exclusivity, agent A gave you a sign of respect- she was not going to tie you down unless she was 100% willing to represent you. If during the edits, you two did work together, her feedback helped and at the end, she wants to represent you, I think that you should pick her over the other agent (barring some other factor not yet mentioned). If you haven't clicked well , maybe she isn't the agent for you. But with this agent, you know what you are getting into and how well you get along. With agent 2, you have no clue.

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Mira
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by Mira » April 12th, 2010, 4:02 am

I think there may be alittle bit of confusion here about what exclusivity means.....maybe not, but just in case.....

Exclusivity doesn't mean any type of commitment on either side. It just means that while Agent A is considering the work, you agree not to actively solict another agent. However, even if Agent A offered you tons of advice, shaped your manuscript in exactly the way you both wanted it, AND had an exclusive, you could still turn Agent A down for representation.

That's the risk any agent makes in offering revision advice before signing someone. And - this is important - it's not your problem. This is a business relationship. You don't owe Agent A anything, and vice versa. Agent A can decide not to offer you representation, and you can decide not to accept it, or just change your mind, revoke exclusivity and go elsewhere even before Agent A decides.

After all, they aren't willing to make a commitment until they are through evaluating your work. You're evaluating them as well, and have equal rights to choose to go elsewhere.

Once you sign with an agent, you can develop a more personal relationship, with all the inter-connections that entails. However, at this stage of the game, choose the agent whom you feel best about, regardless of who offered you what advice, or who offers representation first. Don't worry about any sense of obligation - it's unneccessary and confuses the issue.

It's a business decision, and you want to make the decision that is best for you and your writing career. Trust me, Agent A is making their decision based on business as well.

KellyWittmann
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by KellyWittmann » April 12th, 2010, 3:31 pm

Mira is absolutely right. There is no obligation here. Agent #1 could have offered representation at any point in this thing, but she did not. The OP should feel completely free to choose either of these agents.

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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by BlancheKing » April 12th, 2010, 3:39 pm

From the sound of it, neither have yet to offer representation. If so, wait for one to offer. If it's the 2nd agent, then let the other one know someone has offered. If the 1st agent still won't offer, go with the 2nd one. If the 1st agent does offer, research both more and review their client lists to see who has represented more books of your genre/type. In the long run, while both promptness and loyalty are nice, you need the one who has a better shot at selling the manuscript to an editor.

Best of luck.

-B.
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Mira
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by Mira » April 13th, 2010, 10:35 am

Thanks Kelly, I agree with you, too.

I want to add one thing. How was Agent A's feedback?

If it was on target and helpful, that's something important to consider, since Agent A is most likely a hands on agent and will give you feedback about all of your work throughout your relationship. If Agent A really 'gets' your work, and can help you make it even better, that's extremely valuable.

If the feedback wasn't good, run like the wind.

Good luck! It sounds like you've got a great project there - with two agents who are interested. I hope it works out well for you!

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by Nathan Bransford » April 13th, 2010, 11:31 pm

Ink wrote:Actually, Nathan doesn't ask for exclusivity before offering editorial feedback. Though I suppose I should leave him to confirm or deny that. Might get my paw slapped! I've been wrong before. I once sprayed on shaving cream under my shirt thinking it was a spray deodorant. So now we no how far I can be trusted...
Ink is correct that this has been my policy historically, though I've lately begun asking for an exclusive if we're going to embark on a revision. I had previously assumed that this was already understood with the writer, but you know what they say about assuming. And really, I think this makes it a bit cleaner all around, in order to avoid situations like the one that's developed here. I don't like to tie authors down and limit their choices if they don't feel I'd be the best agent for their work, but at the same time if I'm pouring my time into someone's work without any sure prospect of even being able to submit it, there's a tradeoff there. If Agent A has poured his/her heart and soul into your work I would certainly take that into account in a big way. But after that you don't feel you're an ideal fit you're not an ideal fit.

But I'd actually circle back to the two-week thing. Agent B hasn't actually offered representation, so I'm not sure that I'd press Agent A for a decision. Let things run their course and wait for an offer on the table before setting deadlines.

Damon Shulenberger
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Re: the Agent you came to the dance with

Post by Damon Shulenberger » April 14th, 2010, 2:37 am

Great advice all. I will definitely try and wait this one out and see what develops. Not saying I`ll succeed... I`m sure a lot of the unpublished writers out there know how hard this can be.

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