Saturday, December 01, 2018

So, who's offering?

In yesterday's comment column Michael Seese asked

A question for Janet...

In yesterday's post, Luanne G. said "This time when I notified agents still considering the novel EVERYONE asked me who the offer was from."

Let's say my dream some day does come true, and I DO receive an offer from the Duchess Of Yowl, hand-delivered by her servant with the opposable thumbs. I dutifully write the other folks who have the book, and they ask, "Oh yeah? From whom?"

Shouldn't my answer be, "None of your business." I truly can't imagine anything good (for either me or you) coming from my saying who wants me in her posse.

A lot of good can come from telling me.

For starters if it's an agent at  PantsOnFire Literary Agency, I can say something like "Congrats on the offer. Have you seen my post on things to ask an agent before accepting their offer" and thus remind you to ask "what have you sold?" before anything else.

On the other hand if the offer is from someone I know and trust, I'm glad to say so.

And if it's Barbara Poelle, of course, I know to assemble my weaponry for the monkey knife fight we'll have over snaring you.

When I offer, I remind writers to let other agents know, and I always tell them that if someone asks who offered it's ok to say it was me.

I know some writers think it's rude to ask, and more rude to tell.

It's not.

And honestly, I'm really sorry to say this but if I ask, and the writer doesn't want to tell me, doubt about the veracity creeps in. I hate that this happens, but it does, and better you should know what the true down side of not telling is.

Bottom line: The more transparent you are and that we are, the better off you'll be.


E.M. Goldsmith said...

Oh, I am so pleased you answered Michael’s question. When he asked, I thought was it rude?
I would want to tell so I could be properly verified.

I can’t quite imagine this happening with the state of my query right now. I have such hopes for this week’s query workshop. My query reads like a Madlib. *sigh*

And last night, my villian chased me and my daughter around in a nightmare that still has me shaking, and now I don’t want to read my own book ever again. Could I please be fed to hungry bears?

nightsmusic said...

Well, once the book sells, everyone would know who offered anyway but more importantly, things happen in this industry. People retire, quit, move on, etc, and one may end up looking for new representation. I would imagine some agents have a pretty good memory and will take the 'none of your business' into account if queried down the road. They might just remember the snark and decide you're not an author they'd want to work with. That's cutting off your nose so to speak.

LynnRodz said...

I honestly can't see a downside in telling. Quite the opposite, especially if it's a big-name-bestseller-client-list-an-arm-long agent then all the others will think, "Whoa, stop the horses, I need to read this pronto!"

CynthiaMc said...

If I ever get such an offer, I'm telling everyone. I may even hire a skywriter.

Luanne G. Smith said...

Yeah, I don't think there's any downside to telling other agents who is offering. I was just surprised at the obvious change in responses from a few years ago to now. 'Trust but verify' seems to be the current agent motto.

Amy Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liz Penney said...

I was asked this before and I didn't reveal the name. It was from someone stepping aside anyway. But say the offering agent isn't the most high profile then the other agent might not be so inclined to make a counter offer. Writers have very few advantages in this business. Follow your gut. Besides it's about who is best for YOU, not necessarily how high profile they are, or not.

Amy Johnson said...

I like our Queen's practice when making an offer (i.e., telling the writer to let other agents know and saying it's okay to share her name, if asked). Seems that practice can prevent problems for writers who want to do the right thing (both ethically and professionally), and may feel like revealing an offering agent's name might somehow betray the agent offering representation. But I have a question: Do all agents take the same, transparent. approach as our wonderful Queen? While I'm not seeing a reason not to share the offering agent's name, I know I don't have the business acumen in the publishing industry that good agents have. Might some agents not want their names shared? Would it be okay to ask an offering agent if it's okay to share her/his name, if asked?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Ok, say you get an offer and x number of other agents have your full. So we are instructed to tell those agents that we have an offer so we tell the agent making offer, we need x days to consider offer. Ok, good so far. Should we tell offering agent who has our fulls? That way everything is transparent. Or too much too soon?

Colin Smith said...

So we should just make it standard practice that when we inform agents we have an offer, we should include the names of the offering agents? In other words, don't wait for the agent to ask who's offering--go ahead and tell them?

Liz Penney said...

Don't tell the agent who offered who has fulls. No need. And as I said, I wouldn't necessarily reveal who offered. The agent needs to make a decision based on the merits of the book not because they a) are competitive with the other agent or b) evaluate your book based on who likes it. When you sell a house you say you have another offer, not the details of who is offering. I already think it's a little squishy that some agents wait to read until someone has an offer. And yes I've seen them admit this.

Brenda said...

Being the prize in a monkey knife-fight (monkey-knife fight?) between J and B is the stuff of dreams. My dreams anyway.

Timothy Lowe said...

Bottom line, you want somebody who is passionate enough to grab your book like it's going out of style. If an agent sits on it for 6 months and only offers when someone else jumps on it, I would go with the agent who offered first (all else being equal, of course). A lot can go into getting the submission in shape and you want somebody completely devoted to the process. The last thing you want is an agent who took it on for fear of missing out.

Sarah said...

I had no trouble telling an agent that was reading my full that another agent had made an offer. Nor did it seem weird to say who made the offer. Both agents were known in the field– and both agents respected each other.

I don't think Janet ever suggested that telling one agent about an offer will compel that agent to make an offer for fear of missing out. In fact, I've heard agents talk against that sort of thing. I think it just gives the agent a timeline for making a decision (which could be no as easily as it could be yes).

I also don't think that just because someone offers first they automatically care more. In my situation, one of the agents was dealing with illness in her family. I wasn't forcing her hand by telling her that I had an offer, but she did move my ms up her reading list so she could decide whether she wanted to offer representation. We don't know all that an agent is juggling at the time.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...


Mine too:)

OT: I just finished the Nano (and "won", yay!) and I must say it was a productive 30 days. I finished a WIP which is meant to be my post-debut-novel novel (a girl can dream, eh?) For years, I used to roll my eyes at the whole shindig but now I believe. I believe! The nano support system was amazing. Having a specific buddy (Hi and Congrats and Thank You, Lennon!) to correspond with daily made vomiting out 50,000 words pain-free.

Next steps: multiple revisions and editing to fashion a novel worthy of a monkey-knife-fight between agents. (Segueing back on topic, ha!)

Beth Carpenter said...

When my agent offered and I said I wanted to notify others before accepting, she requested I not share her name. I confess though, when one of the other agents asked me directly who had offered, the name slipped out.

Craig F said...

Transparency is a wonderful way to keep things honest. Just look at government. When it runs transparently things stay peaceable.

When you have a big orange smoke and mirror machine belching stuff out, people get nervous.

I guess that is a thing that goes onto the 'things to ask an agent', do you want me to tell that you offered.

Lennon Faris said...

Ooh, I want to watch this monkey knife-fight. *gets caramel popcorn*

Yes I am coming off the Nano wave (Cecilia was the best surfing buddy - whoohoo!). A daily Nano friend kick-in-the-ass really does make all the difference. Congrats to you, too, my friend.

Now for the brawl! (and back to reading all these awesome comments.)

Musicality said...

Transparency is key in any relationship, but especially as part of a business discussion.

That said, I want to touch on the imbalance of power discussion that occurred. I do like AbsoluteWrite as a resource, but when it comes to the Bewares, I've found that the QueryTracker forums are better. There are more immediate warnings there. Because agents peruse both, I imagine some are less comfortable posting their warnings.

This might be because there is that perceived imbalance of power from the writer's perspective.

Many of us are fortunate in that we have communities we can reach out to.
Not all of us do. And the problem is that this perception is fueled by some agents' actions on public forums. These are few and far between, but well, there we are. As an example: in one of my local groups, there was a recent panic about some agent tweet somewhere that writers shouldn't talk about being rejected on Twitter because that will lead other agents to automatically reject them. Let me be clear that I have not read the original tweet (I have not been able to find it as yet), but what I do know is that it caused a flurry of 'I've tweeted/posted about my writing journey, what will I do now, etc. etc.' in my local writer's group.