Thursday, June 1, 2017

0 Writing 101: I'll Make You An Offer You Can't Refuse

**This post is part of the Writing 101: From Concept to Query (and Beyond!) series. For an overview of planned posts, take a look at the series introduction. Previous posts have explored the drafting processnovel revisions, why you may or may not want to query literary agentshow to write a query letterhow to spot a shmagent, and surviving the query trenches**

The query trenches have been slogged through. You’ve done your due diligence, dealt with rejection, and with the emotional rollercoaster of requests. And now, behold. The shining magical unicorn that is an offer of representation has appeared before you.

Before we talk about what to do when you’ve received an offer of rep, let me take a moment to reassure you that if you’re still mired in those trenches and there’s no sign of an offer in sight, don’t despair. Persevere. Every author’s experience is different. I myself ran the gamut of querying scenarios: I initially queried a manuscript for two years which gained a respectable number of requests, but never found a home. After retiring it and writing something new, I queried for ten days prior to receiving an offer. There is no querying one size fits all. Just keep working, keep honing your craft, and keep putting yourself out there.

If you do, someday that longed for offer will appear. An agent will read your full, and ask to chat on the phone (UGH WHY MUST IT ALWAYS BE THE PHONE???) There are a lot of articles and blog posts out there that list questions you might considering asking an agent on The Call. Some of them deal with the business end of agenting, such as sales figures and number of clients, etc. Honestly, I never concerned myself with these as I’d already vetted my agent list and ensured those I queried were reputable and had a good track record.

The three questions I found most useful were as follows:
  1. What aspects of my work resonated with you the most? (This will give you a good idea of how the agent you’re speaking with approached your work as a reader)
  2. What direction would you like to take my work in editorially? (Personally, I think this is THE most important question you can ask an agent. Communication issues can be a deal breaker, but if the two of you don’t share a similar editorial approach and vision, you will have difficulties right from the get go)
  3. Could you refer me to some of your clients so I can ask about their experiences working with you? (Referrals are very common—in fact, if an agent does NOT want to provide referrals for you, that’s a huge red flag)
It may also be to your advantage to look for authors who’ve parted ways with a given agent, and get in touch with them to ask why they chose to terminate the relationship. If there are numerous authors who’ve left an agent over, say, poor communication, and you’re the sort of person who’d like frequent updates, they may not be the agent for you. Do keep in mind though, that there’s no such thing as a perfect agent*. And an agent you mesh really well with may be entirely the wrong agent for someone else. This is one of the reasons The Call occurs—to see if you and the offering agent get on well together.

If, for any reason, you feel that the agent you’ve received an offer from is wrong for you, IT IS OKAY TO TURN THEM DOWN. I know you’ve waited and waited for an offer to materialize, but honestly, an agent you don’t work well with is worse than no agent. While querying, you still have forward momentum and the possibility of meeting the right agent for you. If you accept an offer you have serious reservations about, you may stall out on your road to publication at best, and end up with a manuscript that has to be indefinitely shelved at worst. Be sure you’re excited about the prospect of working with the agent who’s offered, and that you can see yourselves in a partnership for years to come.

Once you receive an offer of representation, the polite thing to do is inform the agent (even if you adore them and really want to work with them) that you’ll need ten days to two weeks to consider their offer. Set a date by which you’ll get back to them. Then, inform the rest of the agents who have your work that you’ve received an offer. Make sure this is really apparent in your email—put it right in the subject line when you get in touch with them, so the news doesn’t get lost in their query pile. 
Make everyone aware of the time frame they’ll need to respond within should they choose to make an offer of their own.

And then, you wait!

It may be that you only receive one offer, OR you might be in the fortunate position of fielding multiple offers and being able to choose between them. If that’s the case, you’ll have to decide what qualities you most value in an agent, and choose accordingly. I myself turned down several offers from more established agents in order to sign with a newer one, because she bowled me over with her enthusiasm for my manuscript and her incredible work ethic. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted. And lest you think my previous advice to persevere was just what authors further along the road always say, my Superagent (as I like to call her) was one of many agents who read and rejected the first manuscript I queried.

Keep at it. As much as you can, don’t take rejections to heart. You’ve got this.

*I am contractually obligated to tell you this as a piece of Standard Author Advice, though I’m preeeetty convinced my own agent is perfect ;)

About the Author

Laura Weymouth is AYAP's contest coordinator, working to create opportunities for you to get samples of your work in front of agents right here on Adventures in YA Publishing.

Laura lives on the edge of the woods in western New York, along with her husband, two wild-hearted daughters, a spoiled cat, and an indeterminate number of chickens. Her YA fantasy debut, THE WEIGHT OF WORLDS, is forthcoming from HarperTeen in the fall of 2018.

You can follow Laura on Twitter and add her book on Goodreads. Her online home is

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