Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Category: offering representation

Don’t Cry Wolf With "An Offer Of Representation" In Subject Line

STATUS: A have slight cold so not feeling 100 percent today.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MOONDANCE by Liz Longely

When a writer emails us to say they have an offer on the table, for the most part, we do read the pages right away. After reading some of these submissions, and I feel awful admitting this, but I think the offer is a little suspect. Sometimes the pages just aren’t strong enough for me to believe that an agent has offered. That it was simply a ploy for a fast response.

Luckily, for the most part, I do believe the writer as I can see it. The work might still not be right for me but it’s strong enough that the offer is probably real.

Today takes the cake though. We received an email with “offer of representation” in the subject line. Upon reading the email, the writer revealed that he had had this offer in a biblical vision.

Yep. This one would definitely get the WTF stamp.

An Abundance of Mikes!

STATUS: If John Greene doesn’t mind our borrowing his “title” for a bit.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BIG LOG by Robert Plant

Sara is just back from the SCBWI National conference in New York and today we finally got to connect and catch up. And the timing of this is hilarious. Speaking of testosterone….

So unbeknownst to me, Sara has offered rep to two Mikes this week.

That on top of Mike she already reps and a Micheal on my client list, well, we suddenly have an abundance of Mikes! Statistically speaking, if your name is Mike, I guess your odds of getting offered rep have just gone up significantly.


In the last month, I’ve signed two new clients as well. Both of them guys but alas, not named Mike.

That ought to balance the percentages a bit. We’re just rolling in the T.

Now back to editing! The client fulls have piled up. Must get a move on here.

What’s In Our Full Manuscript Queue

STATUS: This is a first for me. CBS films has a dedicated FB page for LEGEND the Movie. And you get first peek at the just released cover. Sweet.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MISSIONARY MAN by Eurythmics

This is actually a good question. A quick look shows that we have 8 full manuscripts in the queue to be read. And here’s where they fall:

6 titles are Young Adult (breakdown by genre, 3 fantasies, 2 paranormals, 1 contemporary)

1 title is adult literary fiction

1 title is adult women’s fiction

We just sent responses to an adult fantasy that we passed on as well as a middle grade title that had several agents interested but ended up not being quite right for us.

Of the 3 clients Sara just signed: adult SF novel, adult Historical Romance, and Paranormal YA.

And as a bonus, here is Kristin as a talking head yet again. This time I’m reading a short excerpt from the Philip K Dick nominee SF novel SONG OF SCARABAEUS for the awards ceremony last Friday. The sound is not the best so you’ll probably have to turn up your volume all the way up to remotely hear me. Warning, this scene will probably hook you in!

The author Sara Creasy thought I looked quite spiffy!

The Usual Suspects

STATUS: I’m having weather shock. It snowed lightly this morning in Denver. Such fond memories of the beach…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LEAVING LAS VEGAS by Sheryl Crow

On Friday, I was reading through the daily emails from Deal Lunch to see what sold this past week. And sure enough, I saw the deal for a YA project that I just loved, offered rep, but the author went with another agent. Project went at auction too! I could have called that. *grin*

Obviously with the posting of the deal, I got to find out who the author had chosen. And drat if it wasn’t a usual suspect. There are certain names that just keep reoccurring if the author doesn’t choose me. If I love a project and offer rep, I can almost always name the other 6 possible YA agents I’m probably up against. We just have the same tastes. And they are all great agents so talk about stiff competition. But since they are all so terrific, I don’t lose sleep over it. If you are going to lose out, lose out to the best. At least I saw the project.

I bet this happens to editors too. They don’t win an auction and they find out who else participated and I bet they run into the same reoccurring names all the time as well.

But darn those usual suspects…

Even When Hot Might Not Be Right For Us

STATUS: It wasn’t a manic Monday. Huh, how strange.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BLACKNAIL by Tim Davies Big Band

About a week or so ago, we asked for sample pages from a query we had received. Then on Friday, the writer sent us an email letting us know that an editor had offered for this YA project and that the writer also had several offers of representation. The author would like to decide on Monday but we could have the weekend to give the novel a read.

Professionally handled. Courteously done for all parties involved. I just want to take a moment to thank the writer for that! Always appreciate given time to read. (side note: interestingly, we weren’t even behind on reading. I had read the partial the night before and was planning to request the full so good timing all around.)

Both Sara and I gave it a look. And we passed on offering representation despite all the obvious excitement around the project.

Should be a slam dunk for ALL agents to throw their hats in the ring, yes?

So why not? Do I think the manuscript will sell? Probably.

I didn’t go for it for one simple reason: I didn’t feel passionate about the manuscript. I could see what was generating the excitement but it wasn’t right for me.

I know I’ve mentioned this before on my blog–that agents don’t just take on projects that they think will sell or be saleable—but I think it’s always worth repeating.

It really does come down to the right person and the right fit.

One More Question To Ask During The Agent Interview

STATUS: Totally on a 70s kick!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WE DON’T TALK ANYMORE by Cliff Richard

I get that a good majority of you might be thinking “could I just get to that place where I’m asking agents questions because they want to rep me” but in the event that you do, I think there is one more question you should add to your list:

Do you enjoy agenting and do you see yourself being an agent for the long-term?

Now, of course, an agent can always agree in an enthusiastic affirmative and still leave 6 months or a year later but I imagine authors don’t often ask this question. The answer could be interesting or telling. (Or it might not.)

I bring it up because I recently read about an agent leaving the agenting biz to take an in-house publishing job.

Big deal, right? Well, not really but we here at NLA were kind of bummed because this agent-no-longer had landed a client or two that we had been vying for when the author was on submission to agents.

This doesn’t mean that they would necessarily have gone with us at the time if the author had asked that question.

Still, probably worth adding to your list.

One Agent Enthusiastic, The Other Not So Much

STATUS: I have several interesting negotiations going on at the moment. Makes the day rather chaotic when I’m constantly having to switch gears from one deal to the other as editors call.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CRAZY by Shawn Colvin

As we are often reminded daily when we see a sale in deal lunch for a title we’ve passed on (LOL), agents can have different opinions on the same work. A couple of weeks ago, we got a full manuscript submission that both Sara and I had decided to read.

Sara started before I did and sent me an excited email about how much she was loving it, etc. I started it, read a good 75 pages, and I just wasn’t wild about it (regardless of how well-written the work was).

It seriously just came down to our personal tastes.

Sara had no hesitation so she offered representation and took on a new client. If left up to me, I probably would have passed.

So we mean it when we say “this biz is really subjective.” It also means it’s a good thing that there are two of us taking on clients and that our tastes don’t always match up. It means more opportunity for everyone.

Sooner Rather Than Later Please

STATUS: Yesterday got away from me. Sorry for the blog silence.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? JUST SAY YES by Snow Patrol

I do think writers have a valid beef regarding how long it takes for literary agents to respond to a full manuscript. I’ve heard horror stories of writers receiving rejection letters a year later—even two years later. Some writers have never received a response. I sympathize as that’s rather ridiculous. Here at NLA, we really do try and turn around full manuscripts in 4 weeks if humanly possible. In our full manuscript request letter, we say we can take up to 2 months to respond just to hedge our bets.

When we send out our full request, we also ask writers to keep us in the loop regarding any other agent interest and that includes offers of representation. Why? Because we don’t ask for an exclusive time to read and if we are going to invest the time, we want a shot at it potentially. Who wants to waste time over the weekend reading a novel that’s no longer available because another agent has snatched it up?

I mean, good for the writer for getting an offer so quickly but yesterday, I was a little annoyed because that’s exactly what happened. We spent time this weekend reading a novel that was of interest to us only to receive an email first thing Monday morning saying the work was no longer available as the author had accepted an offer elsewhere.

Now I guess that the offer could have come in over the weekend and the writer did notify us as soon as possible but it’s rare for agents to offer over a weekend. Not impossible but it’s not the usual mode. Also, if the writer thinks other agents will potentially be interested, why not find that out before committing to an offer? At least give those with a full a chance to respond (and I get that this is completely self-interest on my part but it is my rant after all…). In this case, we only had the submission for 3 weeks.

So, that was a lot of hours taken away from client material and other projects that I’m not getting back and will need to make up this week by working late every night until I’m caught back up.

Makes me grumpy. Okay. I’ll get off it now and move on.

Reminiscing The Early Days

STATUS: TGIF! Here in Denver, it can decide whether it wants to be sunshiney or snow. I’m being serious…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SAILING by Christopher Cross

When I first started my agency, feels like eons ago now, I remember how hard it was to land clients in those initial 2-3 years. After all, I was just some new agent and out in Denver to boot. Now there are so many good agents outside of New York, folks don’t really blink an eye but then, it was a bit of hurdle. I certainly wasn’t high on anyone’s radar. In fact, the previous agency I worked for did nothing but nonfiction.

I was on my own when it came to signing up fiction clients.

So in thinking back, I remember what I did to build my list.

1. I read queries and sample pages in record time. Seriously, I could turn around anything in like two weeks. I figured if I got there first, I might have a chance to convince an author to sign with my newbie but growing agency. I actually aspire to get back to that model—some day. When I catch up. Grin.

2. I did fiction and nonfiction in those early days. Huge mistake. I have no innate ability for good nonfiction (excluding the memoir which I love but is hard to find). Prescriptive nonfiction is definitely not my bailiwick!

3. I took on authors with a voice—even if they needed a ton of editing work. Other agents weren’t fighting for those projects (or not as much). I got those novels into shape and ready to shop. These days, I’m not sure I’d have the time to put in that amount of editorial work. Just to be clear, I still do intense editing if needed but we turn it around in one draft rather than three or four. But the three, four, or fifth draft wasn’t unusual back in the early days. Should I return to that model? I don’t think I’d have enough time to really manage my current client list if I did that and they come first. But this might be one reason to look for a newer, hungrier agent—like Sara Megibow. She’s definitely putting in a little elbow grease and it’s paying off.

On this blog, I’ve also previously mentioned agents like Holly Root and Barbara Poelle who are actively building lists. I just recently met Joanna Stampfel-Volpe and Suzie Townsend at the Missouri Writers Guild Conference. If they aren’t on your radar, they should be. They are going to be my stiff competition in the near future—if they aren’t there already. Grin.

4. I lost any number of possible clients to more established agents. I was always gracious and encouraging when that happened. Good Karma and all. I’ve gotten writer recommends from some of those folks that didn’t sign with me but remembered that. It did pay off but not in the way I had originally imagined.

5. I started my blog Pubrants back in 2006 as a way to maybe get a leg up over the competition. Writers would know me from my blog. This, by far, has had the biggest impact on my success. I owe the blog to getting such wonderful clients as Sherry Thomas, Sarah Rees Brennan, Jamie Ford, and Courtney Milan (and probably others but I can’t think of them right now….)

ps. Lala is shutting down so sadly, I can no longer embed songs onto my blogs until I find a new medium. Any suggestions? I’m bummed.

Hot Commodity

STATUS: This week is all about royalty statements reviews. Getting reconciliation to prints, following up with questions, fixing errors spotted. The usual.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? OPPORTUNITIES by Pet Shop Boys

I’m sure that those of you who have struggled to find an agent as of late won’t believe me but writers are a hot commodity at the moment.

More so then I’ve seen in my whole career.

For the last six months, any project Sara or I have wanted, we’ve had to fight for. In other words, when we offered rep, the author already had, bare minimum, five other agent offers on the table in addition to ours.

Ack. What is up? Talk about stiff competition. Every time I see the sale on Deal Lunch for one of those projects we wanted, I can’t help but groan aloud. Grin.

I thought it was just me but then an agent friend emailed me this morning to literally to say the same thing and had I noticed the increased competition for any project. We ended up in round robin email groan fest on the topic with another agent for most of the morning.

But seriously, I’ve noticed it. In 8 years it hasn’t been as tough as I’ve seen these last 6 months.

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