Monday, April 10, 2017

Eenie Meanie (sic) Miney Moe?

 Well, all the time I spent combing through the Query Shark archives paid off: I sent out 35 queries, had 21 agents request fulls or partials, and three weeks later, am faced with four offers of representation from amazing agents.

So here's my question: How do you choose which one to sign with? They're all from reputable agencies, their clients sing their praises, they've got lists of recent sales to well-known publishers, they're all gratifyingly enthusiastic about my book. I can see myself getting along with all of them. Given in the hell do I make my choice?? And how do agents feel about being rejected? (I know I shouldn't worry about this, but I ALWAYS worry about hurting other people's feelings.)

Don't worry about rejecting agents. We're much more used to this than you are. Just let them know your decision in a timely manner and thank them for their time. Don't get all apologetic or flowery. This is business, not some sort of romance.

As for how to choose: this is something no one can do for you.
You've asked all the right questions.

What to do:
Make a choice, but don't tell anyone, or the agent. See if you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach the next day.  That means you made the wrong choice.
Sometimes your gut will tell you what your brain won't.


Amy Johnson said...

Wow-wow-wow, Opie! Congratulations!

I like the advice about the sinking feeling the next day. That could be useful for many things. Thanks, Janet.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Four offers of representation?! Way to go, Opie!

I'm afraid I don't have any more useful advice to add than that, so good luck and I look forward to seeing your books on the shelves!

Kitty said...

four offers of representation

CONGRATS, OP! And congrats to Janet, too, for your part in helping OP.

kathy joyce said...

Congratulations! Maybe talk with each agent about their vision for your book. What do they think needs changing? Do they "get" what you're trying to do? Other than that, like Janet said, sleeping on it is always good advice. Good luck!

Theresa said...

What a great way to start Monday! That's wonderful news, OP. All of Janet's advice is spot on, and I especially like the bit about trusting your gut. After using your brain to its fullest capacity, it's time to rely on another part of the body. (And I'm thinking your fabulous book had a part in the four offers.)

Donnaeve said...

This is outstanding and on a Monday morning too! Congrats on the offers of rep, and so funny about QOTKU's advice. This is exactly the tactic I've used in the past.

I "pretend" to make my decision, and then see how I feel about it. If I go but...wait. What about...? Then I know I need to reconsider.

The only problem here is if for every "pretend" decision you make, if you get into the but, wait, what about... for Every Single One, and end up going in circles, well, this isn't bad, per se, but won't help make the decision. If at all possible, make a list of pros/cons maybe. Is there anything you've thought about for each that stuck out?

Boy oh boy! What a dilemma. Not!

Good luck! I hope you let us know after you make the decision AND if you're a lurker - or not - that you step forward so we can all personally send out congrats!

Colin Smith said...

WOW!! Congrats, Opie!

I, too, have used a similar decision-making technique. To help with Donna's dilemma, don't just accept that sinking feeling. Interrogate it. Why do I feel bad about going with this agent? Is it simply because the some other agent will be upset? If so, dismiss that--as Janet said, this is business. Feelings are fickle, so make sure that feeling of regret has some depth and weight to it before you trust it. Also, perhaps consider beyond this one book. Look at your career. Which agent would be good, say, if you decide to switch genres, or want to epublish, or maybe do some indie books, or if you get Hollywood interest? Which would be a good career agent?

And finally, do you mind sharing? I mean, FOUR offers?? You only need ONE... ;)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

OP: Congrats on writing an excellent story and receiving four offers. It seems a wonderful dilemma to have. And when your book comes out, do let us know, so we can go out and purchase! Yes, what a wonderful post to have on a gray Monday morning.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

OP... Outstanding! And congratulations.

Kudos to Janet for playing a part in this journey to publication.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Wow, OP, way to go. What a fantastic predicament. I think you have try-outs. Put the agents in a cage and have them fight for it...or just go with the queen's advice.

Again, congratulations. I hope you will keep us here at the Reef appraised of your progress so we may celebrate with you.

John Davis Frain said...

Oh, this problem again!

Put a photo of the four agents on your dartboard. Start tossing. You kill off three and one survives. THEN, if your gut doesn't like the outcome you go two out of three.

My system is not for everyone, I just like to throw murder into the equation when given a chance. If your ms is a MG or picture book, you might do it pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey style instead.

Jill Warner said...

Wow! Congrats, Opie!

SundaysChild said...

Hello everyone! OP here.

Thank you so much for all your wishes, and to Janet of course for answering my question! I actually ended up with another offer after I sent this off, bringing the total to five and my nerves to shreds.

I've mostly been sitting around in a state of utter disbelief for the past week, but once I got over that bit, I've been agonizing over pros & cons lists and trying to imagine the kind of career I want and which of these agents can get me there. The problem is that they are all terribly nice; I keep wishing my research would turn up some anecdotes about kicking babies or stealing candy from kittens or some such thing, but alas.

So instead, I suppose I'll have to put on my Big Girl Pants and say "no thank you" to some people. I'll use Janet's tip to let the idea marinate for a night and see how I feel in the morning -- you know, beyond incredibly lucky and grateful that there are people out there interested in my random little YA Historical.

Thank you again, everyone!

Donnaeve said...

Not to shred your nerves even further SundaysChild, BUT, if agents are skipping happily (adverb! Oh dear) your way by x numbers, just think what might happen when the book goes on sub?!?!? It might go to...dare I say it? Will I jinx things? Nah, it might go to AUCTION! Woohoo!

So, yeah. That could happen too. Don't put those asbestos pants away just yet. :) They're needed for nerves too, not just rejections.

Claire Bobrow said...

Fantastic OP! Congratulations!!

Good luck making your choice. Janet's advice is spot-on. Trust your gut!

Btw -Excellent post and comments yesterday. I was traveling; just got caught up today.

Claire Bobrow said...

Between typing and send, OP revealed! Congrats SundaysChild!!

"Big girl pants" - :-)

Steve Stubbs said...

Wow, that is an amazing result. You're on your way, OP. Congratulations and best wishes.

Colin Smith said...

Hello, SundaysChild! Congrats, again, now we don't have to call you Opie/OP/Oh Pee/Op or whatever. :D

Are we up to six yet? It's been more than half an hour since you posted. :)

What we all want to know is... what's the REAL deal here. I mean, Janet blabs on about how it's the writing, and getting the right project before the right agents at the right time, and persistence, and yadayadayada...

... but we all know that's not it. You can tell us. What's the secret code? You know, the handshake? Did you have to pass a test? No, it was something in the query... magic words... a formula... a specific word count... three paragraphs of equal word length that when divided by seven (the number of books in the Harry Potter series) make up the sum of the digits in John Green's phone number?

I mean... it can't really be that you've written a sox-knocking-off query, and an awesome book. Really? ;)

Casey Karp said...

Brava, SundaysChild, brava!

Can't add anything to what everyone else is saying about how to make the decision, but wow, what a decision to have to make!

Karen McCoy said...

Congrats, SundayChild! Yep, gut decisions versus head decisions. The nudging from the gut is often more subtle than the head.

Wishing you all the luck with your decision!

BJ Muntain said...

Congrats, SundayChild!

Colin: I think the biggest clue to this success is in the genre - YA Historical. This seems to be a particularly hot genre lately (according to agents' MSWLs, anyway). I'm sure, though, there are a lot of people writing to that niche now, so SundayChild's success would ALSO point to a very good book.

I think the secret to success, as I've heard multiple times, is getting the right manuscript across the right desk at the right time. I think my timing is off by about twenty or thirty years, though - in which direction, I haven't a clue.

Elissa M said...

Congratulations SundaysChild!

All the best to you and the lucky agent who gets your nod. You will, I hope, inform us when the book comes out. :)

Megan V said...

Way to go SundaysChild!

Sherry Howard said...

Yay, SundaysChild, what awesome news! Congratulations! So pleased when one of us has big news!

About historical fiction: I've been astonished to learn that term used so loosely, and can define fairly recent history, at least according to a class I'm taking now on middle grade.

Craig F said...

Holy Cannoli with chocolate chips and homemade blueberry sauce.

Congrats Sundays Child:

Perhaps you should shoot for more than an overnight marinade. First off you need to decide if you want to be a big fish in a small pond or small fish in a big pond.

Research the agents' clients and see if you can get any insights. Maybe even take a list of those to a library or bookstore and see if those authors consistently thank their agents. You might glean something there.

Best of luck with your choice. I don't think you need luck for the immediate future, that kind of response is due to skill.

Colin Smith said...

Completely off-topic (well, sort of, since we're talking about historicals, sort of), but I just realized I hadn't pre-ordered Gary Corby's upcoming addition to his marvelous Athenian Mysteries series, DEATH ON DELOS. Eeeek! It comes out in July!!! I should have that queued up already. Gads, have I been that preoccupied?! Well, needless to say, I've fixed that. And so should you, if you haven't already. :)

I've noticed Janet hasn't said much, if anything, about DEATH ON DELOS here. One might think it odd since Gary is one of her clients. I know Janet's a huge fan (she would be a poor agent if she wasn't), so I can only imagine

a) She doesn't want to make her blog all about promoting her clients
b) Gary's doing so well, she doesn't need to do much promotion
c) She doesn't feel the need to say anything here because she knows I will

If a is true, then forget that. It's your blog, Janet, and you have great clients. Promote! I hope b is true. And you can count on c. ;)

Nadre said...

What to do:
Make a choice, but don't tell anyone, or the agent. See if you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach the next day. That means you made the wrong choice.
Sometimes your gut will tell you what your brain won't.

Such smart advice!

Joseph Snoe said...

If I get multiple offers, I'm sure I'd react the same way SundaysChild has. Only if I relied on my gut, I'd pick Alka Seltzer.

Congratulations SundaysChild. I can imagine how exciting a time this is for you. I (and many others here) are excited for you too. I love good news.

The really good part is, from what you say, no matter which one you hand this gift of gold to, you'll be happy.

Claire AB. said...

Whohoo!! Congratulations, SundaysChild! You've obviously written a wonderful book -- and what a great problem to have!! And Janet's advice is awesome. I don't think I've ever consciously done what she's suggested and I'm going to try it if I'm faced with such a dilemma!

One thing I wonder about is the agency agreements. I don't know if there are a lot of variations -- maybe Janet or some of the commenters can weigh in on that. Perhaps one agency is more favorable to clients than another somehow in terms of written agreements? I'm sure the legal stuff isn't as important as chemistry, of course, but if you're having trouble deciding, maybe finding out more about the reputation of the agency -- not just the agent -- could help narrow down your list.

Eileen said...

Congratulations SundaysChild!
I always thought it would be fun to develop an app where you could input two choices and have them duke it out Celebrity Deathmatch style. Janet’s gut-check advice is wonderful. I once saw my son making a rather important decision by tossing a coin. I was horrified until he explained that it was a gut-check exercise to see if he was disappointed in the coin toss results.
Whatever you decide, please keep us posted. We are all going to want to buy your book!

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Yowza! Congrats Sunday's Child. This is it! Enjoy the feeling.

Barbara Etlin said...

Wow! Such a good problem to have! Good luck on your decision!

kathy joyce said...

SundaysChildI'm curious. What was the time frame from querying to now? Can you tell us the name and elevator pitch of your book? Positive thoughts coming your way!

Sarah said...

I only had two agents offer representation. While it was exciting, it was hard, too. They were both great, reputable agents and I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

However, my ah-ha! moment was when I realized that there is a difference between wanting to say yes to someone, and not wanting to say no to (a very wonderful!) someone else. Not wanting to turn down an offer is very different from wanting to say yes.

Colin Smith said...

SundaysChild: The New York Times is reporting a food fight on 7th Avenue between a number of notable literary agents. I don't suppose it has something to do with your book...? ;)

Colin Smith said...

SundaysChild: ... it seems Janet has gone out there to... I don't know, calm things down? No... it seems she's brought a large whiskey bottle and shot glasses. Something about deciding this in true literary agent fashion. I think you need to make a decision before this gets ugly... ;)

french sojourn said...

Congrats, SundaysChild! What wonderful news. Best of luck, and keep the reef updated.

Cheers Hank.

Lennon Faris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lennon Faris said...

Congratulations, SundaysChild. That is awesome with epic proportions!!

I think Janet and everyone here have had a lot of good advice that I won't add to. Just wanted to say, even though it might be a teeny bit stressful, also try to enjoy it! This is an incredible feat.

Gypmar said...

This is so thrilling! Congratulations, SundaysChild, and good luck with your decision! I love Janet's advice.

Julie Weathers said...


What a wonderful problem to have. I imagine the count will rise before it's all said and done. You must know we are all thrilled for you.

John Frain

Oh, this problem again! ha ha. Thanks. I needed that.

I vote for an armadillo race to choose the winner.


Terri Lynn Coop said...

First of all congrats to SundaysChild who has the most delicious dilemma of all.

Now, forget about your book. It's too emotional.

Instead, you put offers on five different houses and they were all accepted.

You applied for five different jobs and got an offer from all of them.

What are some of the things that would be on the decision tree for these choices?

In the house you'd look at things like:

Price vs. appraised value of the houses around you.
How much work does it need?
How fast could you move in?
Is the smaller house in the better neighborhood better than the bigger house in the lesser neighborhood?
Maintenance of grounds.
Space to expand.
Commute to work.
Quality of schools.
Ease of getting around to shopping and other necessities.
And the intangible, "which one makes me feel happy?"

For the job it would be:
Salary or wage.
Opportunities to advance.
How long a commute?
Did I click with the boss?
Reputation of employer, reviews by former employees.
Comfortable workspace?
And the intangible, "which one makes me feel happy?"

Don't feel bad about not buying the house or taking the job. They don't. They have other prospects.

Which agent has recent sales of comparable titles and how are those books doing in the rankings?
Which agent feels like a good fit with your work style? Do you want a career manager or a facilitator?
Which agent has the resources to carry your book far and wide into all the sub-rights?
Are you comfortable taking a flyer on a newbie or do you want someone with their name on the door?
Which agent has a social media presence that makes you comfortable? Brash and witty? Just the facts? Personable? Or not out there much at all.
And then that intangible . . . which offer just took your breath away?

Good luck on this decision and please come back and out yourself and who you signed with so we can follow the progress of your book.


RosannaM said...

Somehow in proving I was not a robot, my comment didn't post. Arghh.

Way to go Sundayschild! You have written an enticing story so I would say to trust your instincts with your agent decision. And just think, when you have made the decision all this anxiety will fade away, leaving you with pure joy. Ride the moment! Chill the champagne!

Kregger said...

Writing a great query got you through the door.
What hit me when I read your question was how you must have also written a great novel.
The proof is in the pudding. (Whatever that means)
Great job and good luck with your intuition.

OT: To paraphrase John Frain a little bit--I just like to throw a flock of crows into the equation when given the chance.

Don't we all?


Julie Weathers said...


Not to be an arse, but a gathering of crows is a murder.

Kate Larkindale said...

Congratulations Sunday'sChild! What a fabulous position to be in, even if I don't envy you. And great advice from Janet too. Trusting your gut is hard sometimes, but it's usually more reliable than the head.

Beth Carpenter said...

I'm so excited for you, Sunday's Child. That must be some book. Can't wait to read it.

My husband and I have always agreed the hardest decisions are between two (or in your case, five) good choices. The good news is you can hardly go wrong. Once you've made the decision, don't look back. Not that you'll have time, you'll be too busy writing the next best-seller.


Colin Smith said...

So... thanks to Julie I just had to look up why the collective noun for crows is a "murder." It seems many of these unusual descriptions of animal groups come from a work called THE BOOK OF ST ALBANS originally published in 1486. It's possible "murder" was chosen for crows because their gathered presence was thought of as a portend of death and disaster.

Hence, a confusion of literary agents. ;)

Craig F said...

Yes,Colin they are called venery terms. All writers should remember them and take a moment to look them up. There are a whole mess of them. Some are complicated.

For example vultures in the air is a kettel. On the ground they are a wake. Crows are also called a horde when perched in trees.

What the OP has here is a blessing of unicorns.

Colin Smith said...

Craig: Which makes me think we should have leave to create our own. For example, when seagulls are circling overhead, they are a crap of seagulls. Need I explain? :)

Ardenwolfe said...

Ah. The problem all hopefuls dream about.

PAH said...

Kregger the original idiom is actually "The proof of the pudding is in the eating" ... and, in its correct form, it makes sense. It just means you can't comment on the quality of something without first having tried it.

No clue how it became "the proof is in the pudding" ...


Colin Smith said...

PAH: It was how they solved the murder at the Great British Bake-Off. Now, there's a novel waiting to be written... ;)

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Colin, HA! A confusion of literary agents.

OT... Sorta. The MC in my WIP has a healthy obsession for unusual words. One of her interests happens to be collective nouns for animals. I spent some time researching them several weeks ago. Although I grew up knowing many. My mother loved collective nouns. A murder of crows was one of her favs.

Anonymous said...

Chiming in late as usual, but holy guacamole, SundaysChild, what a wonderful "problem" to have! Congratulations!! And how nice of you to share it with us and renew our hope that all the hard work and perseverance might someday pay off. Let us know when you have news of a deal!

Gypmar said...

Craig F - A blessing of unicorns indeed!

Colin - As someone who grew up in a beach town in Southern California and ate lunch outside at school every day, I can confirm the fitness of calling it of a crap of seagulls from unfortunate experience.

Kregger said...


You will never be an arse in my opinion, you are way too classy. And even if I thought so, you would probably find and trample me under one of your horse's, and I'd deserve it.

A joke is a complete failure when I have to explain it. I was equating John Frian's "Throwing in a murder(of I assume people) with a flock of crows which is also a murder.

*sigh* Not my first, won't be my last.

I apologize posthaste for my obscureness and lack of wit.

I tasted the pudding and it lacked the proof of bourbon.

Is that the same as leaving the cake out in the rain?

K-Man out.

Julie Weathers said...

I am returned from picking up the munchkin. For those interested, a gathering of munchkins is called a merry. Not really, who knows what a gathering of munchkins is, but so it is called in my household.

I think what is really remarkable here is that Sundayschild got 21 requests from 35 submissions. That must have been a powerful query and opening pages package. All hail the victor.

Anyway, I am getting ready to get back to work on RC.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations - such fabulous news to wake up to...
and what a terrific dilemma (might not seem so but it really is!)

AJ Blythe said...

Brilliant, Opie. Four requests is amazing! Fingers crossed it bodes well for editor desks too.

I love Janet's advice. My tummy often knows better than I do. So much so my Mum gave me a fridge magnet that read:
Stress is when your mouth says yes and your stomach says no.

AJ Blythe said...

And just read the comments and discovered Opie has fessed up a name and another offer! Congratulations, SundaysChild.

Sarah, I love what you said: Not wanting to turn down an offer is very different from wanting to say yes.

I think those words of wisdom deserve a subheader nom. Brilliant advice.

Sarah said...

Thanks, AJ Blythe! It was such a clarifying moment for me. I'm a high school teacher, so I don't have much time to pop out of lurking status, but I do love reading this blog and the wonderful comments!

SundaysChild said...


I really can't be bothered to go back and retype everything, but someone did ask about a timeline, so:

- Started sending queries on the 9th of March
- Received first offer almost exactly 2 weeks after
- Gave all agents who requested fulls and partials 10 days to finish reading and decide on me
- Nudged all agents with queries because 2 weeks is far too short for some of them to have even looked at it
- Tried very hard not to check my email too much in the 10-day period
- Failed miserably
- Ended up signing with my agent about one month after I started querying

I also wanted to shoutout to Sarah for her excellent advice (that wanting to say yes to someone is very different from not wanting to say no), and to Terri Lynn for a very articulate decision-making strategy.

In the end, I DID end up making a decision -- so yes, I now have an agent, and am now going to dig into edits and revisions and general polishing so that we can get this baby on submission. SO MUCH EXCITEMENT! EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!

I do want to say that I do believe a large part of my experience had to do with timing and luck and the current push for diversity (I come from and write about a pretty unrepresented country in YA).

I'll be blogging about querying and including my query letter in that post, so if anyone is interested, I'll post it here -- and therefore out myself -- sometime in the near future.

Again, thank you everyone for so much love and support, and thank you Janet for your excellent advice, as always!

Colin Smith said...

YAY AGAIN, SundaysChild!!! Congrats for making that decision. I wish you all the very best for your publishing career. Please keep us updated! :)

Panda in Chief said...

Huzzah for SundaysChild! What wonderful news! Congratulations for getting so many requests (if I did math, I could figure out what the percentage is, but I'll throw out the ball park number of way more than half.)

Glad you were able to decide on who the lucky agent was to be without having to descend to cage fights, dart throwing or armadillo races, although I think most of us would pay good money to see an armadillo race.

Just goes to show you what doing your research and writing a damn good query and book can do for you! Why didn't I think of that?

I've heard that the collective noun for pandas is an embarrassment of pandas, but I don't know if this is true or not. If you've even seen pandas eat, they kind of lounge around on their backs and drop a lot of bamboo scraps on their tummies, which could be embarrassing if they were in a nice restaurant, so it could be true.

Joseph Snoe said...


Excuse me for not knowing my etiquette rules, but is it bad form for you to tell us who the lucky agent is, and why you chose her (him)?

Nicole Roder said...

Holy Cannoli! Congratulations SundaysChild! That's incredible!!

stacy said...

Congrats, Opie!!