Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Back at the starting gate



Just before Covid hit, I had three agent offers for my novel. Talk about a tough choice I never thought I'd be making! After much deliberation, I signed with one and notified the others I was passing on their offers. It was all cordial and professional, and the other agents graciously understood.


Unfortunately, the agent I signed with was unable to sell the manuscript and has since shifted her focus to nonfiction. She's grown frustrated with the difficulties of selling fiction in this market and recommended I submit my newest novel to another agent.


As such, we amicably parted ways, and I'm back in the query pool with a new manuscript that hasn't yet been on submission. My question is: would it be poor form (tacky even?) to query it to the agents I previously passed on?




You'd be nuts not to.


This kind of thing happens more than you think.

I've been on the other end of it myself.


I shopped a ms I loved, couldn't find any editors who loved it as much as I did.

When she wrote a second book, it didn't resonate with me the way the first one did.

The author and I agreed she needed fresh eyes, and probably a new agent.


I was delighted when she connected with an agent who'd been declined for book #1.

That agent loved this second book, sold it in a multiple book deal and everyone (me included)

is happy.




The reason this will work is "It was all cordial and professional, and the other agents graciously understood."



Which is why you don't burn bridges even when you think you've crossed the river.



A writer who burned me at the offer stage won't get a second chance.




E.M. Goldsmith said...

I would love having multiple agents interested in my manuscript. And I would hope I would conduct myself graciously as the OP did here. It is a tough business. And it's always best to lead with kindness, courtesy, professionalism. In everything, this seems the best approach especially considering the times. Kindness and simple courtesy cost nothing. And can mean the world to people, especially over-worked, under-paid people reading our books and queries for nothing. Well-done, OP, and I wish you luck with the next agent. I feel sure your books will find the shelves soon.

Julie Weathers said...

E.M. Isn't that the truth about multiple offers. Kindness is always appreciated. I was watching a video of a man who was bicycling through all 50 state capitols and was from New York. He was in his fifties and I thought, "Good for you. I may walk to the mailbox next week." Actually, I am thinking about buying T-Rex costumes for me and the boys for this summer to encourage them to go walk in the mornings. We'll just be a little family of T-Rexes out for a stroll. Anyway, this gentleman was doing an interview and said the friendliest place he'd been was Mississippi. A couple there put him up in their tree bungalow and fed him. Not sure if I read that right, but he was thrilled. He said the southern hospitality myth was not a myth. Everywhere he went he got treated warmly.

In other words, kindness does impress people. I went into a grocery store I love for their deli and meat departments yesterday. A clerk was coming in from outside and shouted at me. He had a big grin on his face. Was joking about some silliness and wanted to know if I was having a good day. So, I started out the trip laughing. I stopped to admire some beautifully decorated eclairs and a young man rushed out grinning to ask if he could help. I held up my fingers in the sign of a cross. "No, thanks. Just admiring your beautiful work."

Everyone in the store is like that, which makes it easy for me to come back.

And, as they say...
Good manners are never out of style. (Go to 59 if you don't want to watch all this silliness.

I don't blame Mr. McCarthy for being upset.

Anyway, good luck to the OP. It's so lovely to have agents on call who liked your work before.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Interesting. And yes, well done OP. All the best to you.

I realize Mr. McCarthy was ticked because the author made a decision while he was still reading. But I'm curious, as he was also put off by the one week time frame, what is an appropriate time? I'm also wondering if an agent who offered rep would ever press the writer to make a decision, even if they knew another agent was still reading? And one more rabbit hole: being a jerk is never a good thing, but would a writer sort of panic, thinking, "After all the hard work, I've got an offer! I'm taking it!"

Gretta said...

I love this post. Publishing is hard on authors and employees, and life is hard on humans, in general. Kindness is always, ALWAYS the way to go.

AJ Blythe said...

Kindness seems to be in short supply with some these days. But it is no effort and can make the sun shine in others lives.

OP, congratulations on having more than one agent want it to start with, and kudos for not being an asshat. Good luck with those earlier agents, I hope they jump at the chance to rep you.

Craig F said...

When; alright, maybe if, I get something worth having multiple agents cast out their hooks and lines, I will be careful with them.

I know I won't want to go through the query trenches again.

OP: best of luck to you.

John Davis Frain said...

Totally agree with Sharky, but the trick here is how you address the folks at the top of your list. Well, the folks who have reclaimed a spot at the top of your list.

I mean, you asked them out, they said yes, you said never mind, no. Now you're coming back as a wiser, more mature soul after reconsidering (and breaking up with your first choice). That's kind of a tough sale.

In lieu of flowers, a sweet-scented synopsis seems in order at a minimum. Then they'll know you went through hell on the way to woo them.

Good luck! And I'd love to hear results of the next step cuz you never know who might be following in your footsteps...

John Davis Frain said...

Oh, and merry (belated) birthday, Kitty. First, I was early, now I'm late. Regardless, have a great birthweek.

Kitty said...

Thank you again, John!

Gretta, our daughter spells her name the same way. Everyone wants to spell it with 1 T.

Katja said...

John Davis Frain, if you want to be on time, neither early nor late, it's the mighty Colin Smith's birthday today. 😆

Kitty, Happy belated birthday 🎂 🥳 🎉 🎈!

Heather Wardell said...

The agent who offered rep first didn't want me to take longer than a week to decide. I gave the others that week, but had to keep pushing her to wait.

Bad sign, in hindsight.

I hope the next time Jim McCarthy sees an author post something bad, he gives them the grace he expects.

Beth Carpenter said...

I'm late, but I must wish a happy belated birthday to Kitty, a current happy birthday to Colin, and best of luck to the OP. If I loved your first novel enough to offer representation, I'd sure want to read your second.

KDJames said...

I've never been in this situation, but I think I'd hesitate to approach both of the "leftover" agents at the same time. Maybe decide which of the two might be a better fit for you and approach that one first. If that agent offers rep, awesome. If there's no interest, approach the third agent.

I wouldn't *tell them* that's what I was doing, as it amounts to offering them an exclusive-- I know Janet has said not to do that and also not to delay your own career needlessly. But man, I'd hate to generate serious interest from both and then have to tell one of them that they're an "also ran" again. Especially since this time would be a personalized second chance. Is that too kind? Maybe. I try to go with my gut on things like this.

Happy Birthday Week/Month to Kitty and Colin!!

Colin Smith said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone. Happy belated birthday to Kitty!

It's great that you handled your multiple offer situation with professionalism, OP. Hopefully the goodwill you sowed back then will reap rewards for you. All the best!

NLiu said...

All the best, OP! May you have a better experience this time around. And happy birthday to Kitty and Colin!