I received an offer of representation, and I did what I have heard you should do--I emailed the other agents who had my manuscript and let them know. During the two week waiting window, I also received a copy of the offering agent's agreement. There were a few terms in it that, based on my research, didn't sit well with me. The agent and I went back and forth, but ultimately I decided it was best to decline the offer.
Some of the agents who had my full never responded or made "it's not for me" declines. But a few others came back with something more along the lines of: "If you didn't have an offer we might have taken this on or asked for an R&R".
So my question is: Should I just write off these "almost" agents and start querying again, or should I contact them and let them know about my decision to decline the offer (and also a subsequent decision to revise a few things based on the feedback I received)? If they ask, should I mention my reasons for declining (not who and where but the general issues with the agreement)?
I would appreciate your thoughts from the other side. I never quite expected to be in this position, so I am at a bit of a loss.
Yup, this is a very big problem, and it's one you did not create, but you're still the one who's going to pay.
The problem is that we are seeing an uptick in writers telling us they have offers when they do not. It's a strategy for getting us slacker agents to read requested manuscripts that have been languishing here for a couple days.
I understand the temptation to do this. I have editors who don't read things until there's an offer from someone else. The temptation to make sure there is an offer from Carkoon Publishing rears its head more often than I wish.
(If you are tempted to do this: don't.)
Now you're in the predicament of having an offer for real and turning it down, putting you back in the active submission category. Agents are going to raise an eyebrow, suspecting skullduggery.
The best way to handle it is to be honest: I had an offer but the agent and I had different views on some key points, so we decided not to proceed.
If you were to come back to me with this news the very first thing I'd want to know is what you disagreed on. Was it revisions for the manuscript? (I know from your question it was not, but your email to the agents won't be so specific) Was it something else? What exactly was it?
And here's where Problem The Second arises. If you didn't sign with the first agent because of terms in her author/agency agreement, you're going to need to tell me what those were and why you had a problem with them.
I'm VERY leery of clients who are difficult at this stage of the process. Generally I back away from working with them. If yes, you're nitpicking the author agency agreement, we've got a problem.
If on the other hand it was something else, like her clients all hate her and are hoping she'll retire soon, well, you share that info discreetly as well.
This is a real problem, and I don't see how you could have avoided it.
Oddly enough, I recently had an offer on a client's book, did exactly as you did [email all the editors who also had the book with the update] only to turn down the offer three days later. I then had to email all the editors again with "hey, just kidding!" I felt like a whacko, but there was nothing to do but suck it up.
And of more interest to you: I sold the book for realz a week later.
So again: be straightforward with the agents, BUT with the caveat: make sure you aren't being too picky about things you shouldn't be at this point, (How you'll know that however, I don't know!)
and you are prepared to explain what exactly was the sticking point with Agent The First.