One of the most thrilling parts of my job is offering representation to authors whose work knocks my socks off. I get to share my delight at finding a fantastic project, and I get to make someone really, really happy. There’s nothing quite like that kind of rush.
When I offer rep, I always ask the author to tell the other agents
considering her manuscript that she’s got an offer, and to let me know within a
week or so if she’s decided to work with me. After all the effort and time
an author puts into her project, she owes it to herself to make a considered
decision, and if other agents are reviewing her full manuscript, they deserve
not to have their reading time wasted. I hope I’ve made my case for why I’m
the right person to represent her and her work, I make myself available to
answer questions, and then I wait while she gets responses from the other
agents to whom she’s submitted. Then I complete a variety of superstitious
tasks that I’m not sharing here. Trade secret, sorry.
It’s nerve-wracking to wait for the author’s response, but it’s
necessary. Marry in haste, repent at leisure, the proverb goes — so I want my
clients to give my offer a good deal of thought, weigh their other options,
and choose me with the same enthusiasm with which I’ve chosen them.
If you’re offered representation, do tell the other agents who are
reading your work. They may be almost finished reading it; who knows? They
might be about to call you too. My agent colleagues all have a story like
this one: They’re reading something they like. They Google the author. They
find that last week, the author blogged all about her brand new agent. And the
author hadn’t withdrawn the project from submission, let alone given
anyone else a chance to make an offer. Wouldn’t it be better to kick off a
publishing career with a clean bill of karma?
I know some authors have “dream agents” (an idea I’m not keen on,
because you don’t necessarily know who the best agent for your work would be
until you speak with her). But even if your dream agent offers you
representation, hear out any others who are interested in you—even if you turn
them down, you’ll get some different perspectives on your work. And you’ll
already be building a reputation as a professional.