I recently received an offer of representation -- doing a happy dance! -- but it struck me as a little peculiar. This is what happened. I queried a Very Established Agent -- accomplished and well-connected and part of a highly regarded agency -- and VEA's assistant wrote back asking for the full manuscript. Soon thereafter, the assistant said "they" loved the book so far and "they" asked for a two week exclusive, which I couldn't grant because other agents were reading (and because you've addressed the pitfalls on this blog!). Then, VEA emailed directly and said he loved the manuscript and wanted to talk to me. Gulp. So we set up The Call, and he repeated that he loved the book but since his assistant, who recently got promoted to a junior agent, had plucked my manuscript from the slush and loved the book enough to risk it as HER debut, he wants her to be my agent. I would be her first client, but since he also believes in my book (and elaborated on why), he will be there every step of the way to back her up.
On it's face, this could be great. Sort of like getting two agents for the price of one. And the offering assistant seems very capable and eager. But on the other hand, I felt a little odd about how I was passed off. Please don't get me wrong here! These are very nice people -- I've spoken to both of them and they are super kind and enthusiastic about my book. And they have been doing all sorts of things to win me over, including having me talk to VEA's clients about the offering assistant. But is this how most new agents get clients? It felt a little like a bait and switch. And if I take the offer, should I have anything put in writing about VEA's involvement, or is that just a matter of trust on my part? Finally, if I get a second offer of representation from another very awesome agent reading my manuscript (hard to imagine, but then again, two others are reading now), should I pass on this offer because of any part of how it went down, or should I still seriously consider it because VEA has promised to be heavily involved?
Yes, this is EXACTLY how busy established agents keep the revenue flowing to an agency. Bring in hotshot young folks and let them loose in the incoming queries.
Just this past month one of our most successful agents found three things that were terrific and redirected them to other agents.
And your extra special idea of asking to have VEA's involvement put in writing...well, let's just say if you asked me to do that, you'd no longer have an offer of representation.
I'm going to suggest that you recognize a hard truth here: you don't have confidence that you'll have effective representation from this young agent. You think of yourself as being "passed off" and talk about "bait and switch" and having to "trust" the agent will do what he says he will.
Don't accept this offer no matter the status of the other requests.
The worst thing you can do is start off with an agent having doubts. You'll doubt her at every missed phone call, every lagging answer on an email, and probably most of her advice on strategy. You'll want to check with VEA before doing anything and that's one fast way to undermine a new agent's confidence. (In fact, my minions checked with me on stuff they didn't know BEFORE the client was looped in.)
And you'll always wonder if you could have done "better."
That kind of thinking is toxic in any relationship and you don't need me to tell you that.
Don't inflict this on a young agent looking to build her list.
Let her start with people who actively want her, recognize she was the one who found their work, advocated for making them a client, AND persuaded VEA to invest his time in the project as well.
This is a time for brutal self-honesty. Look at what you wrote to me. It reflects what you're thinking.
If you elect not to follow my advice here, I strongly encourage you to recognize that you do have doubts and to be very careful you don't convey them to the agent or to VEA (as in jebus, do NOT ask for his involvement in writing.)