For the final installment of the QUERY 101 series, I wanted to touch a bit upon a dream every writer has when they are querying: multiple offers. Once you’ve worked through blood, sweat, and tears to get your manuscript written, and then sloshed through the query trenches, receiving multiple offers of representation sounds like nirvana. But there are definite things you should consider if you ever find yourself in this enviable dilemma.
Today, I’ve asked my wonderful writing buddy, MarcyKate Connolly, to share how she tackled this situation. In her own words, she offers amazing advice for wading through a sea of multiple offers and coming through on the other side with an amazing agent!
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: The Blessing and Curse of Multiple Offers
A Guest Post By MarcyKate Connolly
When you’re wading through the query trenches, getting a single agent to love your manuscript can easily consume your focus. But what happens when more than one agent loves it?
Sounds like the holy grail of querying, right? It’s an incredible thing to have multiple agents love your manuscript, especially if you’re like me and have been querying for years and garnered hundreds of rejections. At least, until you calm down and realize that you are going to have to choose between them.
The question is: How?
First, I’m going to assume you’ve only queried agents you actually want to work with. (If instead you’ve gone with the spaghetti method – meaning, throwing your query at every agent you can find and hoping something sticks – you may be able to whittle down your list more easily. And possibly find you don’t want to work with any of the offering agents, which is one big reason to be sure you always do your research before hitting send!)
Be ready even with only the first call and offer on the table. Have a list of questions prepared in advance and think about what’s important to you in an agent. Do you want an editorial agent or is that a dealbreaker for you? Do you want an agent who reps writers book by book or one who is career-oriented and willing to guide you? What kind of personality are you most comfortable with? Good agents come in all shapes and sizes, so having a sense of what you want in one will help guide you when it comes to making a decision.
And when you get the second or third or fourth offer, DON’T PANIC. Seriously. (Read: this is the part where I started to panic. Easy trap to fall into! Totally not helpful.) I got three offers of representation on Monstrous after nearly 4 years of querying, so to keep myself from freaking out too much, I first typed up all the answers to the questions from our discussions and other notes, then I made a chart listing pros/cons for each agent. This can help lay things out for you in a way that you can look at them more rationally. It’s easy to be excited and want to flail (and hey, get your flails out at the first offer – you’ve earned them! – then come back down to earth J), but first and foremost this is a business decision and it should be treated like one. Even though Agent X may be at Fancy Schmancy Agency, you still should look at what they have to offer and compare to the others.
Since you have the luxury of choice and that can be very daunting, don’t think of this as a reason to panic, think of it as an opportunity to find the best possible match for you and your book. Basics aside (such as ensuring they are indeed reputable and have a standard commission rate of 15%), here are some things you may want to consider about each agent. Keep in mind there are no right or wrong answers here – it all depends on you and your personal preferences.
- Are they at a big agency or small agency? Some people are afraid of getting lost at a big agency, and crave the personal attention of a smaller boutique one. Others want the clout that comes with the big name agency editors know well. It’s up to personal taste and goals.
- Are they offering on one book or do they want to rep you for your career? Some authors prefer book-by-book, while others will want someone to guide them in career-oriented decisions.
- What revisions do they have in mind for the manuscript they want to take on? Total overhaul or smaller changes? Do their suggestions resonate with you or make you cringe? This is someone you’ll be working with long-term and who will be pitching your work to editors, so it’s important that their vision aligns with your own.
- What is their experience and track record? You should already have an idea of who their clients are and what houses they sell too, but if you haven’t looked that up, this is the time to do so. Are they selling to houses you can see your book going to or places you’ve never heard of? Also consider what other agencies they trained at, and whether they’re a brand new agent or an established one who has an active stable of authors. Which one is a better fit for your book and you as an author?
- How do they handle subrights? Do they have a dedicated staff member to actively sell subrights in the agency or do they use a sub-agent for foreign and film?
- What’s their communication style? How often do you want to hear from your agent and how does that compare to what they say is their normal practice? Do they prefer to communicate with their clients via phone, email, smoke signal? Does this match your personal comfort level? For example, I know a lot of writers (myself included) who dread talking on the phone and prefer email (though I’m totally cool with a surprise call for good news, naturally!).
- Do you click with their personality? Are they personable or very business-like or somewhere in between? Will you feel comfortable emailing or calling them when you have questions and concerns? Again, you will (hopefully) be working with this agent for some time and while personality probably has little bearing on how well an agent can do their job, personality conflicts can definitely become an issue so if there’s something about an agent rubbing you the wrong way it may be a sign they’re not the right fit.
- How did they respond to your other project ideas? This is especially important if you’re looking for a career-oriented agent. When you talk to them on the call, they may ask what else you’re working on, so be ready with the projects or base ideas you have coming up next. If they don’t, then bring it up when it’s your turn to talk, especially if you write in a variety of genres and age groups. If they seem iffy about them, that may be an indication that they may only love this one book.
This list is by no means comprehensive, so give some thought as to what’s important to you in an agent before you make your decision. It’s probably going to be tough one. I was fortunate enough to have three amazing agents offer on Monstrous and to be honest the list of Cons was pretty much non-existent. There was much flailing and gnashing of teeth. But in the end what it came down to for me was my gut. I simply couldn’t imagine not signing with my current agent (*waves to Suzie*). She had all the qualities I was hoping for, revision ideas that matched my vision perfectly, and an infectious enthusiasm for my work that bowled me over.
So if you find yourself in the enviable position of choosing between multiple amazing agents, take a deep breath, then take a step back to look at the pros/cons. If they’re all still matching up, consider your gut. Choosing between agents is rarely an easy decision, and sometimes your gut can pick up on things it may be hard to see when you’re stressed and excited.
A bit about MarcyKate’s upcoming book, MONSTROUS (available February 10, 2015):
The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre’s inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark.
Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail—they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre.
Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre.
And what he knows will change Kym’s life.
Reminiscent of Frankenstein and the tales of the Brothers Grimm, this debut novel by MarcyKate Connolly stands out as a compelling, original story that has the feel of a classic.
MarcyKate Connolly is an author and arts administrator living in New England with her husband and pugs. She is also a coffee addict and voracious reader. Represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media. Her debut novel MONSTROUS will be out 2/10/2015 from Harper Collins Children’s Books! Check out her website or follow her on Twitter.