Pub Rants

The Agent Call—Take 2

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STATUS: I had a great week and I’m ending early. It’s only right around 5 p.m. Yahoo.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ACCIDENTALLY IN LOVE by Counting Crows

The most delightful thing has happened. An agent has called to offer representation. Now what?

First off, unless the agent is absolutely your first choice and you have no reservations, you won’t accept the offer during that phone call. You’ve got some work to do. One, you want to have your list of agent questions ready and you want to ask those questions. If you don’t have them ready, you might want to schedule a phone conference with the offering agent for when you do (but just have them ready).

It’s not presumptuous. You’re setting up a business partnership. You want to know what you are getting into. Ask about the agent’s agency agreement (if they have one), so you can read it (and ask questions) before making a decision.

Hiring your agent should be an informed decision. Maybe on Monday I’ll tackle what you ask during “the call.”

But for now, you have one offer on the table. Now what?

1. While on the phone, you tell the agent that you have several other agents interested (if you do—don’t lie if you don’t obviously) and that you will need to contact them before making a decision. All the agents I know fully respect this. And if you don’t have any other interest, you can ask for a short period to contemplate the offer before accepting. That’s reasonable too.

2. Then you contact all the agents who have your full manuscript and inform them. I’d start with email and then if you don’t receive a reply from some of the agents, I would follow up with a phone call to make sure they know.

3. Give those still reading agents a deadline. You need to make a decision by XYZ date so please get back to me by such-n-such a date if interested.

You now might end up with more than one “the call.” How exciting is that?

If other calls come, ask questions, review the agency agreement beforehand (all the stuff I mention above), and now you might also want to chat with current clients.

And it’s okay to have more than one conversation with the offering agents if you are undecided and you like more than one. You’re now in the driver’s seat because agents want to land you as a client. It’s our time to woo you.

In the end though, you can only choose one.

17 Responses

  1. 2readornot said:

    Thank you! It’s such a tough decision…the two agents showing interest right now are both excellent, with wonderful credentials. Both have strong client lists, and both are lauded by other (also respected) agents. Honestly, I’m hoping only one of them will offer so I don’t have to choose…okay, I’m hoping that someone will please offer!! 🙂

  2. Anonymous said:

    I’m in nearly the same position…It’s a wonderful place to be, but I know a lot about one who’s reading a full, but hasn’t commented to much and not so much about the one who is SUPER enthusiastic and comes from a very reputable agency. The super enthusiastic one really “speaks” to me and I just think we’d be great, but I don’t know… I guess I’ll get my questions ready and hope for the best. Thanks, K.

  3. Anonymous said:

    Now that we’re speaking of questions to ask agents. . .I have one and I’m wondering if you or maybe some of the other kind commenters can answer. I posted this on WritersNet, but they don’t seem to know the answer.

    When I sign with an agent, (or a publishing house) I’m eventually going to have to give out some form of a tax payer number, right? My question is, does this number have to necessarily be a Social Security Number? Can it be an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)? It’s used to report taxes back to the government (Internal Revenue Service, I think).

    I don’t qualify for an SSN and I was wondering if I could use my ITIN instead…

  4. Kimber An said:

    I’m saving this one for future reference. I don’t like telephones, so I need guidelines like this to boost my confidence. Thanks a whole bunch!

  5. Annalisa said:

    Commenting to echo the sentiments of katiesandwich and Kimber An–I hate the telephone and I would love the list of questions! At your earliest convenience of course.

    By the way, your blog is one of my favorites. I especially appreciate the nice Midwesterner angle because my father is one of those as well. Not a literary agent, just a man from Illinois who is very, very nice.

  6. Liz Wolfe said:

    Thanks, Kristin. This is a timely reminder for me as I have a clutch of agents reading the full of two different manuscripts right now. I’ve prepared a list of questions and I think I’ll go ahead and print them out so they’ll be handy.
    So, if one agent offers and we call the other agents, how long do we give them to read the full they have?

  7. Anonymous said:

    Gee, am I the only one who isn’t currently fielding lots of agent offers? Wow…

    Anon 2, one of my publishers has a space on the contract for SSN/ITIN, so I assume that would be fine.

  8. Kasey Mackenzie said:

    Anonymous at 1:41 a.m.: Don’t feel bad. I’m not fielding agent offers atm. Just doing the query and wait thing. =) Had a couple partial and full requests, and even a requested rewrite, but nothing so far. And I’m sure there are plenty of others in the same situation.

  9. Anonymous said:

    Anonymous 6:01 PM–

    For tax purposes, yes, you can use your ITIN instead of your SSN. If it’s an official USA form, the ITIN is interchangeable with your SSN if you don’t have an SSN. For forms that are NOT government forms where they ask for your SSN, just tell the person you’re handing it to that you don’t have one. They probably are just trying to assign an ID# to you and they probably have a bank of alternate numbers to choose from for those who do not have SSN’s or choose not to share them. (This is something that happens in Universities a lot.)


  10. Dr. Hack said:

    What works best when there’s more than one agent who’s giving you “the call,” is to demand they mud wrestle in order to determine which one you’ll deign to let represent your first novel.

    If you demand they do the winner-takes-all match on a live internet feed, then sell access Pay-Per-View style for $5 a pop while advertising it as the, “First Ever Agent Mud Wrestling Competition,” whatever advance you land won’t even matter, because you’ll already be rich.

    I swear it works every time.

  11. Anonymous said:

    Good post.
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    They are now offering 1 year phone service Free when you purchase 1 year – for a limited time. Check it out at Via Talk