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Preparing to Make an Offer of Representation

Making an offer of representation is more than simply picking up the phone and making the offer. For me, and many agents, it takes time and preparation as well as some research and sometimes re-reading.

I know I’m offering representation well before I finish the book, and yet it might take me a few days after finishing to finally make the call. It’s during this time I’m doing research and creating a vision and plan. I might also be getting second reads or re-reading parts of the book myself.

When I get on the call with an author I’m selling myself. Since I presumably really want this book and author, it’s important I sell my best self. This means knowing my stuff and being prepared for any questions or conversations that will arise. It means being prepared to impress.

Author Research

While still in the middle of reading, I’m researching the author. I’m not necessarily looking for anything in particular, but I do want to see which social media accounts they have, what they are saying, and maybe even their favorite food. Obviously, what I’m really interested in is any sort of publishing history.

There is no magic find in my author research. I’m really just looking to get a sense of who this person is before we get on the phone. In the same way I assume the author has done some research on me.

Market and Competition

My job is to know the market and sure I know who wants thrillers and who is buying mind, body, spirit nonfiction. That doesn’t stop me from doing research everytime I have a new book in hand. This time I’m not just looking for who is publishing thrillers, but looking for what the market looks like for a book with this specific hook or theme.

I will even go so far as to make a submission list. I want a sense if someone just bought a book with this same hook, or how may nonfiction books there are on this exact subject. Let’s face it. I’m excited and even before the book has gone through revisions I’m already thinking of my pitch and submission list.

Having a plan ahead of time helps give me perspective on the viability of the project. Think of it this way, Ford doesn’t create a new car without a little research. I shouldn’t sell a book without doing my due diligence either.

Revisions

This is probably the biggest piece of any offer conversation. What’s my vision for the book overall and what changes do I see need to be made.

When first reading the book some obvious things will pop out at me and I’ll make notes along the way. Often, I’ll also take time to review the book a second time (or at least part of it) with my editorial hat on. Looking for ways in which the book might be improved.

If I was lucky enough to get second reads from the other Agents of BookEnds, I’ll use their feedback as well to help guide my thoughts.

And then, once the call is made, I’ll wait. And yes, I’ll wait as impatiently as any author who is waiting to hear from an agent on a full request.

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10 comments

  1. That was interesting…and kind of comforting to know so much effort goes into your side of it when the book takes so long to write.

  2. I was wondering… what happens when you take on a client (and book), but it doesn’t sell? Do you drop the author, or do you continue to work with them until you hit on the book that sells? How many chances does an author get before they are sent packing?

  3. Thank you Jessica, for these wonderful posts! You truly are a writer’s advocate, which gives me hope that one day soon, I will be fortunate enough to receive an offer of representation from an agent and agency that is half as great as you all are!

  4. “Think of it this way, Ford doesn’t create a new car without a little research.”
    True! And probably a LOT of research these days. Though in the Fifties Ford (in)famously spent tens of millions on researching and developing the Edsel model, which famously flopped. Conversely, years earlier, Henry Ford was asked why he took so little notice of market research. He replied that, if he’d asked people what they wanted when he started out, they would not have asked for the Model T, they’d have asked for faster horses!

  5. Enjoyed reading your description of the process and the work that goes into making a decision to represent an author. I always wondered what happens when one contacts an agent for representation.

  6. It’s important to see the big picture—agents have a lot of work ahead of them if they take you on, and they’ve already made a big time investment!

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