Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Monday, April 25, 2016

What to do when there are two

About a month ago, I got an offer of rep. I alerted every agent who had my query/partial/full. Then my initial offer fell through.

During that turbulent week, Agent 1 from Fabulous Agency requested my full, rejected it with some very, very kind words. When they heard about my offer of rep mishap, they even offered to show my MS to some of her fellow agents at said Fabulous agency (which, honestly, I had no idea was even an option). Did I mention they were really, really nice?

Agent X (different agency) offered a very kind R&R. I asked Agent 1 if they'd be interested in the revised version of the MS and they said yes. On cloud nine right now.

Fast-forward to this week, and I'm still waiting on the okay on my new outline I sent to Agent X so that I can really get into the major changes in my revision. Meanwhile, I have this shiny new MS I'm itching to query. So I entered a Twitter pitching contest and Agent 2 (!!!) from Fabulous Agency requested a partial from this other MS.

Now, I have no idea what to do. Agent 1 was so kind and generous, and though they're not reading anything of mine right now and the R&R didn't come from them, they did agree to read the revised version of my initial MS. But at the same time, I don't want to miss this chance with Agent 2.

Since they're both from the same agency, I have no idea how to proceed. Do I e-mail Agent 2, explain the situation, and ask them if it's okay if I send them the new MS partial? Do I just do nothing and hope Agent X will okay my revision outline and then send the revised version of my first MS to Agent 1?

Like I said, Agent 1 was really, REALLY nice, and I don't want to make a huge faux-pas. But I also don't want to miss out on an opportunity with Agent 2.




It's completely understandable that you're confused about what to do. Interactions with agents have become so fraught with hysterical warnings -- "do this" "never do that" and "oh my god, you did WHAT?? You'll be on the blacklist forever!"-- that it's a wonder authors heads aren't spinning and there's an uptick in calls for exorcists.

So first things first: you can not screw up if you're polite and straightforward.

[If an agent is dismissive of you for being polite and straightforward, that agent needs to loosen her girdle and get a fucking drink. You may quote me on that as needed.]

You say to the agent who requested your work in the Twitter contest that you have an R&R in the pipeline for Agent 1.

It's up to the agents to sort stuff out on their end. Your job is to write well, and not be an asshat.

So far you seem to be 2 for 2 on this.

This is actually the overarching guideline for all these kinds of weird situations that pop up in the query process: be polite, be straightforward.  Resist the temptation to game the system or strategize.  REALLY resist the voices who tell you that's the only way to handle this. I can assure you that is terrible advice, and worse, it will bite you in the asterisk later.


45 comments:

nightsmusic said...

Oh, were I to have such a dilemma! Congrats, OP, on TWO! And thank heaven for Janet because I would also have had no idea how to proceed with something like this. Another one of those Fingertip Facts I keep on all things publishing that I hope to run into one day.

Good morning all!

More coffee...

Robert Ceres said...

Ack, how does the initial offer fall through? That has to be frustrating!

And what are the odds that two agents from the same agency are interested? Good luck. You must be right up the agencies alley.

Jason Magnason said...

I wish I were in their situation.

Congrats to the OP for being able to see the light at the end of the query trenches.

I wish you all the best.

Robert Ceres said...

Ack, way to proofread Rob. Feel like I'm running a Pennsylvania farm stand. Remember, no posts until at least one coffee. I meant to say agency's.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

My head hurts.

Opie, completely understandable why you are confused but the Queen was able to make sense of your situation.

I need more caffeine. So glad I wasn't drinking any when I read the "needs to loosen her girdle and get a (sorry, I don't write that word) drink" phrase.

Panda in Chief said...

Oh yeah... Being polite and straightforward. I think I've heard of that. Actullay, I am much more polite since moving to the northwest. No, really. I was much worse before.

Great dilemma to have, no matter how frustrating it must be.

Colin Smith said...

Wow! I mean... wow, Opie! Although, I shouldn't be surprised. We have some fine, fine writing talent hanging out at this here reef. :)

Based on everything I've read here, I don't think there's really any other way to approach it than what Janet said. Indeed, I think this is a great general principle for dealing with agents, especially when things get weird. Be honest and straight-forward in the most polite and business-like manner. Explain the situation and discuss the best way to proceed. I daresay Agent 1 and Agent 2 will have a private conference, maybe pistols at dawn, very likely a drinking contest, and one of them will end up with both of your novels. But that's my guess.

Congratulations, though, Opie. This is a wonderful dilemma to have. Clearly you're doing a lot of right things, including composing excellent queries! :)

Celia Reaves said...

OP, we're all jealous of your dilemma, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating for you. Hang in there! Odds are that all this will end with a wonderful agent-author relationship and you'll be able to breathe again.

Janet wrote my next subheader nom: "Your job is to write well, and not be an asshat." I will hang that over my computer today!

luciakaku said...

Hopefully without diminishing my own echo of admiration for such a great situation to need advice about, it's interesting how many answers Her Sharkiness gives that could be boiled down to, "How about you try talking to them?" Any agent who gets upset with me that I politely informed them of a situation that could possibly be sticky if I solved it myself isn't an agent I want. Especially because I'm an open and honest sort. If they can't handle me saying, "Here's a situation; what would you like to do?" from the start, they won't handle a business relationship with me very well.

Also, congrats Opie, and I hope it goes swimmingly~

SiSi said...

Congratulations and good luck, Opie! I agree with Janet--"Be polite, be straightforward." That's good advice in any business. If that isn't enough for someone, I figure I don't really want to work with that person anyway.

And thank you Janet for helping to calm our nerves after all the "hysterical warnings" we read.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

OP, wow, be calm and bow to our queen.

As Janet says, "If an agent is dismissive of you for being polite and straightforward, that agent needs to loosen her girdle and get a fucking drink. You may quote me on that as needed" <--- THAT.

I have such an awful case of Monday morning blues that I am going to leave this to my betters swimming around here in the Reef. Good luck, OP, please let us know where you land.

Lucie Witt said...

E.M., when I woke my 6yo up this morning he was convinced it's Sunday. When he finally realized it is indeed Monday he burst into tears. He is all of us.

OP, congrats on all the agent interest. Good luck with finding the right match!

I love all the contests and pitch events that exist now, but I have noticed they give rise to more of these complicated situations while you're also querying. Add in the fact that agents AND editors participate in some of these contests and it's easy to see how things get confusing really quickly for the poor woodland creatures.

DeadSpiderEye said...

This seems a little complex, I think I might be able to clarify though; just keep in mind that the vessel with the pestle...

AJ Blythe said...

So it's late here, and I'm about to go to bed, so maybe it's the cobwebs but I'm confused about Agent X. If Agent X is reviewing the outline why wouldn't Agent X want to read the revised ms as well?

I'll sleep on it and leave y'all to give me a sensible explanation to read in the morning.

Brigid said...

Oh, E.M., I'm sorry. It's the Mondayest.

Because I'm a literalist (to my mother's chagrin), just to clarify, OP should reach out to Twitteragent and say "By the way here's where I am with Firstfabagent", but what should they say to Firstfabagent?

Mister Furkles said...

There is new Vatican Exorcisms Course due to increased demand.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3037324/Vatican-train-army-exorcists-deal-rising-number-demonic-possessions.html

Now we know why.

Julie Weathers said...

I really should start reading this blog at night when I've had gallons of coffee. I feel like I'm in a battle of wits trying to figure out who's on first. Laurel and Hardy are doing the battle of wits in my head. I should rest.

Good manners are never out of style, they go with everything. What a fantastic problem to have. Congratulations!

I wish the OP much success and it sounds to me like you have your ducks in a row. Whether you do it bare chested or not, is up to you.

John Frain said...

I agree with Janet (duh), and have to add that this situation must rise more and more often today versus just a year or two ago. With the advent of Twitter and pitching there in many forms (Twitter Pitch, Pit Mad, contests, etc.), it seems this situation will get more common for agents. Especially agents who participate in the various forms of requests through social media.

Hence, Opie, I think they will immediately understand the situation you're in. And then they'll appreciate your straightforward way of handing it. Good luck to you navigating such an exciting time. Soak it all in!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Communication is important! How great (but perhaps a bit panic inducing in this particular instance) it must feel to have a number of agents interesting. I had to read through that a couple of times to understand what I thought was going on. I may need to just go back to bed...


I would actually love to attend the Vatican Exorcism Course. Alas, not having the travel funds and not speaking Italian kind of precludes that. I'm Catholic, was raised Catholic, but in what appears to be a strange gap period where Sunday School didn't really teach us a whole lot about the history of the church and its practices, other than when we were specifically studying for the receipt of a new sacrament. I mean, I still know more about it than all of my friends, who are not Catholic, but I sometimes feel saddened by the gap.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

There are times when I read this blog and tilt my head, take a sip of coffee, and wonder - will this ever happen to me?

Then I remember I spent all weekend reading Anne Rice and playing Skyrim. And people say vampires aren't fun anymore.

Regardless of my own lack of progress this weekend, congratulations to OP and their amazing (though still difficult) problem! It's a good problem to have.

InkStainedWench said...

Julie, since you brought up ducks, there's this...

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/this-vineyard-puts-800-happy-ducks-work-every-day

InkStainedWench said...

Apologies for the primitive linkage.

Julie Weathers said...

Obviously, I need to start mainlining coffee.

I read Brigid's, "By the way here's where I am with Firstfabagent" as "Firstfatagent". I was going to strongly recommend not doing this.

Mister Furkles:

I would actually love attending the exorcist training program mentioned in your article about the Vatican army.

Will came in one day when I'd just received some new books on demons and vampires and had them sitting out. He said, "Really, Mom?"

"Strictly research."

"Yeah, I don't want to know."

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Opie: forgot, in my uncaffeinated state, to offer you congrats on having three agents interested in two different manuscripts. (Think I got that right) What a glorious and exciting mess to have on your hands! What a great problem to have.

Lucie Witt: Your 6-year-old and Mondays? Awwwww, bless.

Julie: the ducks in a row youtube...wow. How absolutely freaking amazing.

ok, back to my exciting writing on a dark and stormy Monday. With a little help from The Mamas & The Papas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h81Ojd3d2rY

Colin Smith said...

Linky Links:

Mr Furkles' link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3037324/Vatican-train-army-exorcists-deal-rising-number-demonic-possessions.html

For the record, I am not commenting on this one. I already feel like I trod on Janet's fin (unintentionally) a few weeks ago with my comment on Catholic sacramentalism. :-\

InkStainedWench's link: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/this-vineyard-puts-800-happy-ducks-work-every-day

Colin Smith said...

Lisa's latest addition to the New Blog Design Playlist:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h81Ojd3d2rY

Dena Pawling said...


I don't have any wise and/or witty comment on the OP's issue, except to say congratulations!, but I watched Julie's Russian ducks in a row and the NEXT video is absolutely, cry-on-your-keyboard hilarious. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vx1OVLX5Rc

wanderlustywriter.com said...

It always astounds me the number of times I see agents advising writers they need to be nice and polite! I can't imagine being any other way ever, but especially towards the people I need to help me with my career!

Charlotte Grubbs said...

AJ Blythe, that was my question as well. The whole thing with Agent X confuses me. It was my understanding that if an agent offers an R&R, the ethical thing to do is allow them first crack at reading it, and either making an offer or passing. I'm not sure why OP contacted Agent 1 to offer the revised MS, unless s/he was thinking "well, if Agent X passes, I'll have another fabulous agent waiting in the wings." But sending the revised MS to both Agent X and Agent 1 at the same time, after Agent X put in the development work, just seems like a big no-no to me.

Regardless, interest in multiple MSS from multiple agents is a good thing indeed, and I wish OP the best of luck.

Colin Smith said...

wanderlusty: Of course, agents don't say these things without reason. They have experience with writers being unprofessional and impolite. I agree--I'm amazed people would actually behave that way. But I suppose I shouldn't be...

Dena's link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vx1OVLX5Rc

BJ Muntain said...

Although I, too, have woodland creature characteristics, it would never have occurred to me to be anything but honest, polite, and (hopefully) professional. I'd be excited in OP's situation, but I wouldn't panic.

I once queried an agent who requested a partial. While she was reading the partial, I entered a Twitter pitch contest and got a nibble with an agent at the same agency. I told her, "Agent 1 is currently reading a partial. What would you like to do?" She responded, "Then Agent 1 gets first dibs, but if she passes, I'd like to see it." Simple, clear, no confusion or worry.

Like Soylent Green, Agents are people. Real people. Reasonable, knowledgeable people who hold our careers in their hands... but I've met/heard of very few agents who weren't *good* people. Trust them to be reasonable, and be reasonable in return. And if they turn out not to be reasonable, RUN.

Jennifer: I took a couple university classes in the history of the Church, but I'd still love to learn more about the first few centuries, the Fathers and founders, and so forth. If you'd like more information on practices and such, check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church (it's not the classes taught to children - it's a long book of a document that specifically declares the beliefs of the Church.) You can buy it on Amazon, or read it for free on the Vatican website: Catechism of the Catholic Church It's interesting, educational, and beautiful.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

What I meant to say, (I deleted my earlier comment):
Pick the one with whom you will have the most beautiful child.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...


What a great position to be in. I got nothin' 'cause I've never been there, so just do what Janet says.

Panda in Chief said...

In answer to wanderlustywriter (I hope I got that right, or it could be very embarrassing) I don't get the impression that OP was considering being impolite. I think we've just had it drummed into our tiny brains that agents are busy and we shouldn't bug them unneccessarily, like: have you read my query yet? How about now? Um...are you reading? Whaddya think?

This is not that. This is several agents who have requested additional material and in the time lag way of things, now some stuff needs to be clarified, as to who has first dibs, and since they are in the same agency, if they know that this is what is going on, they can all discuss it with themselves and then the author, and maybe OP will come out of this with an agent and an agency who is really excited about him/her.

So I think what Janet is saying, is this is an appropriate situation for further communication from the OP.

Am I wrong? Am I wrong?
I'm calmer than you are.

Steve Stubbs said...

I think everyone should be polite to everyone – all the time.

Unfortunately, anyone who has spent much time in the business world knows that is a minority opinion. It’s not a minority of one, but you would not have to take your shoes off to count the number of people who agree.

That said, the only really nice response is a check for enough dosh to replace your roller skates with a new Maserati. If you are looking for nice responses, go into Wall Street where nobody does anything useful and get paid millions a year. If you produce anything, don’t hold your breath waiting on really nice responses. Our economy rewards only the non-productive.

I would think the way to give a nice response would be to obey the maxim: “Don’t waste my time.” If you suspect you might be wasting someone’s time, don’t hit the “Send” button.

I would take my own advice by not posting this, but I have a question. I keep wondering what an asshat is. I looked it up in the dictionary and saw a friend’s picture there. But there was no definition of the word “asshat.”

Can anyone tell me what an asshat is?

Janice L. Grinyer said...

FYI - Duchess of Yowl is visiting the Shark; updates on FB, hilarity ensues.

Actually, it was the photo that made my day. The Duchess is definitely having an "in your face" Monday...

Adib Khorram said...

Steve: Asshat is the colloquial term. The technical term is recto-cranial inversion.

I always try to be polite. Where I start to worry (though I try to stop myself) is where the desire to be polite conflicts with my own personal policy to not send emails that don't contain any actual information. So if someone emails me to confirm receipt, I want to reply and say "Thanks!" but then I remember that I shouldn't.

Mark Ellis said...

Would like to offer a belated "wow, just, wow" for the Roger Angell essay.

nightsmusic said...

Wondered why I was no longer getting Janet's Facebook posts. Then I remembered, it's because they banned my name since I don't have a birth certificate to send them with nightsmusic as my first name. I do have a stalker ex though that I've had for the past oh...way too many years to admit here so, I 'liked' your page again, Janet, with my new personae and hopefully will start getting notices again. :) Love the Duchess of Yowl!

Sorry, I know, totally OT.

Mark Thurber said...

From all I've seen, people here on the Reef have the politeness and courtesy part pretty well down, which is why it's such a pleasant place to spend time. It was more the straightforwardness/simplicity of Janet's answer that struck me. I think we can get so wrapped up in what the proper industry etiquette is supposed to be that we forget the simple option of just clearly laying out a particular situation for those involved.

I have been speculatively pondering (because, hey, daydreaming) a distant relative of Opie's situation. Let's say there are agents still holding a full of MS #1 when I start querying MS #2. If I get an offer on MS #2, should I tell agents with MS #1 and offer them a chance to read MS #2 also? Following "Janet's Rule" from today's post, I think my approach would be to tell those with MS #1 the situation and ask what they would like to do.

brevity said...

DeadSpiderEye, the vessel with the pestle is classic! That's about how I respond when someone tries to explain the whole lay/lie deal to me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ9f2rnjB84

(Sorry that's off topic, but Danny Kaye is just brilliant.)

BJ Muntain said...

brevity's video link

LynnRodz said...

I'm sure others have probably mentioned this (it's way past my bedtime so no time to read the comments) but I'm surprised Janet that you didn't ask OP why s/he is even sending the R&R to Agent 1 or 2 at Fabulous Agency when it seems Agent X at Perhaps Not As Fabulous Agency is doing all the work helping OP to revise. I seem to remember you talking about this scenario and that would make OP an asshat in your book.

I could be wrong. Going to bed now.

roadkills-r-us said...

"Like Soylent Green, Agents are people." -BJ Muntain Quote of the Week, and it's only Monday!

And a writer came to Jesus to test him, and said, "Which is the greatest commandment when it comes to dealing with agents?"
Jesus replied unto him, "As the Query Shark has written, 'Be polite and straightforward.'
"And the second is like unto the first; 'Your job is to write well, and not be an asshat.'"
And the writer went away sad, because he should have asked this of Jesus, or at least Janet, before sending scrolls far and wide to agents across the land.

Mark Thurber said...

Nice, roadkills, thanks for the laugh!