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Form Letters for Authors: Notification of an Offer

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. For some reason, for some authors, notifying agents of an offer (either of a publisher offer or offer of representation) seems to be tricky. There are subtle nuances that go into the way you inform the agent that can make or break their desire to “play” as we say.

Sometimes we’ll get notifications that say, “I want to let you know that I got an offer” okaaay. Does that mean you accepted and are pulling it from submission? Or are you looking to turn it into multiple offers?

Sometimes we get this, “Another agent offered representation today and I’m really excited, but before signing I wanted to know the status.” So you’re planning on signing anyway? Because no agent wants to read a manuscript with an eye toward representation if you have no intention of considering her offer of representation. Don’t just offer us a chance to “be nice.”

Sometimes this, “I got an offer I really want to accept, but as a courtesy if you’d still like to review the material I’d be happy to let you do so.” Again, in this case simply let me know you’ve accepted another offer. I’d rather not put all my clients and everything else on hold to read something when I’m not even in the running for it.

I’ve always pushed authors to turn an offer around into something bigger. This is your chance to really interview and find the agent who is right for you. That being said, you also need to make sure you’re as honest with yourself and with agents as possible. If the agent who offered is the perfect fit and you strongly feel there’s no one else, then just accept. Sure we’ll all feel a little hurt, but it’s better than wasting hours reading a book that we never had a shot at anyway.

When notifying agents let’s make this easy:

Dear Agent:
I’m [excited, please, thrilled, overwhelmed] to inform you that I’ve just received an offer of [publication, representation] for TITLE OF BOOK. I’ve told the [offering agent, publisher] that I’ll need time to [find an agent, make my decision].

If you are still interested, could you let me know by DATE?
Or
I’d love to gauge your interest before accepting. Could you let me know by DATE?

Thank you so much for your consideration. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

While you should write in a way that best reflects your style, you can see here the tone is encouraging and the details are all in there. This gives everyone a clear idea of what you need and also let’s other agents know that you are still very interested in working with them.
Because, well, agents can be just as neurotic as authors 😉

Good luck and congratulations if you’re currently using this form.

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16 comments

  1. Since the agent is the only person who understands his/her schedule and workload wouldn’t it make more sense if he/she was the one to respond with a date, and asking the author if he/she can wait that long?

    Responding “I would love to let the other agent know by May 15” means that if the agent isn’t available to start reading until May 16, then you may get a rejection even though you were perfectly willing to wait another week or two.

    I’ve gotten similar from agents, who were upfront about when they could read, and it’s always been appreciated. Just my two cents.

    1. Emily: The other part of this is that the agent who offers first is waiting for you to make a decision. If you’re really excited about that first agent, you won’t want to keep her (or him) waiting indefinitely on another agent’s deadline. I was surprised how many agents were able to read my manuscript in my week timeframe. I did have one bow out due to time constraints, which of course was understandable, but my timeline was based on my desire to make the decision efficiently and the respect that I had for the initial agent who offered.

      1. It seems pretty simple to me. Agent 1 makes an offer. You go back to Agent 2 and say you have an offer and ask when they would be able to read your book. Agent 3 says “In three weeks.” You go back to Agent 1 and say “My MS is out with another agent and I’d like to give that person a chance to read, can I give you my decision in three weeks?”

        I doubt any agent NEEDS to sign you up by a specific date or civilization collapses. It seems like things would run more smoothly if there was more straightforward communication between all parties, and since it is the writer who is constantly being told not to “bug” the busy, busy agents, it seems as if it’s up to the agent to give a time frame.

    2. I was wondering about that as well. I am also uncertain as to how much time we should give an agent to respond after we’ve received an offer of representation from another agent. One week? Two? I thought maybe ten business days would be appropriate since this is a business transaction.

  2. Very helpful blog on a part of the business often overlooked. Hope to see you at Malice. I would love to just say hi as I’ve followed your blog for years and learned so much from you and your team. Much appreciated!

    Gina Lea

      1. Will do. We are attending the funeral of my sweet MIL Friday so won’t be arriving till Saturday morning. Safe travels!

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