Already Have Publisher Interest

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Aug 19 2008

If you’re a regular blog reader you know by now that I strongly advocate choosing an agent rather than letting an agent choose you. In other words, when you get that offer of representation you should definitely talk to as many agents as possible so that ideally you can choose the agent you would like to hire rather than just going with the one who was fastest on the draw.

But what about if you have publisher interest too? Of course I’ve talked about how to handle a publisher offer of representation and leverage it to get an agent, but if you have a publisher reviewing your work, how should you query agents so when the time comes you can leverage that offer?

In much the same way you query any agency at any point in the process. The difference is that you open your letter by telling agents which publishing house is already reviewing your book and how they came to receive it. Did you query blindly or did the publisher approach you in some way? If you queried them you might want to mention whether or not they are the only house you queried. The risk of course is that there is no guarantee this house will offer, and if they don’t your future agent is going to want room to submit on her own. Honestly, if they do offer, your future agent is going to want to know that she can get your proposal out to other places and hopefully turn it into a bigger offer.

Most agents will jump on the opportunity to consider a proposal that is currently under consideration with a major house. Be wary though because there are a lot of agents who will jump only because it is under consideration. The agent you want sees the possibilities even if this particular house passes and knows that nothing is an easy sale.

All of that being said, I’m sure many others can tell you that interest from a publisher in no way guarantees representation from an agent and I would never advocate going out and submitting wildly under the assumption that interest or an offer from a publisher is the only way you’ll get an agent. Not at all.


10 responses to “Already Have Publisher Interest”

  1. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I have a book with a publisher right now. Off of a blind emailed query. Less than 2 days to a response. Not ONE agent will even READ this book.

    I’ve been told already that the market for this book is so small (only 3 pubs do this type of book) that there is no interest until a sale is proven. Meanwhile, I work at other books, hoping I can finish one of those and get representation.

    It was rather surprising to me that an agent would rather read a partial or full from an author with no interest than a publisher-requested book from me. I get that I haven’t made a sale yet, but wouldn’t there be at least *some* curiosity to find out why the publisher wanted to read my book?

    Very frustrating. I would also assume with an agent’s backing, I might get an answer more quickly from the publisher. Maybe not, but I’d like to think so.

    14 weeks and counting. My dream is to get that offer and be able to pick and choose my agent…but right now I’m just frustrated with the lack of interest.

  2. Avatar Kimber An says:

    It is a baffling business! Half the time, aspiring authors are told no, no, no, don’t query editors before agents because then they won’t be able to query them on your behalf later. They also want first dibs, I guess. And half the time, we learn agents are more interested if you already have publisher interest, which means, of course, we should be querying editors and agents at the same time. What’s an aspiring author to do?

    Well, I can’t figure it out. I’m just going to draw up a master list and launch all the queries to agents and editors at once. Then, I’ll forget I ever wrote the dang book and get on with the next project.

  3. Avatar Julie Marie says:

    I’m glad you posted this. I’ve been thinking a lot about agents lately since the wip is getting close to completion and going through edit.

    One site, hosted by a very respectable author had a post about the best way to get an agent.

    Number one piece of advice? Get an offer from a publisher. No agent wants a first time author with no publisher interest.

    I wanted to scream, “No! Don’t listen.”

    Having said that, I plan to meet with an editor at a conference.

    Other than that, I am going to traditional route and hiring an agent first.

  4. Avatar Robena Grant says:

    I agree it’s a tricky business. For the past three years I’ve been asked by editors at RWA National to submit, gone through the process to full manuscript, then been rejected. Nicely, but still …

    It seems I’ve gotten close on those last three manuscripts. But close isn’t good enough. Until recently I hadn’t bothered with trying to get an agent because I believed I needed the editor interest first. Now I’m not so sure. It’s all so confusing.

    I’m shelving it all and going back to learning what it is that makes a good book. I think I must have a good premise but the writing doesn’t hold up. I’m experimenting with my latest, tearing it apart and reworking it. Who knows I might end up with a big muddy mess or it might become a shorter but better story. The worst case scenario, I’ll ruin the book but learn to write tighter. *grin*

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I get that I haven’t made a sale yet, but wouldn’t there be at least *some* curiosity to find out why the publisher wanted to read my book?

    Unfortunately, if this is a small publisher, agents most likely won’t be interested. And maybe because there’s been no solid offer and the market for your book is small, agents are reluctant to invest the time in reading your ms.

    But congrats on the interest, and good for you for working on new projects. Controlling what we can control is all we can do in this sometimes hearbreaking business.

  6. Avatar Karen Duvall says:

    I have a friend who was offered a contract by a small but reputable publisher, and she thought sure this was her ticket to getting an agent. Nope. She was so disappointed that every agent she approached turned her down.

    I’ve heard of this happening to other writers, even ones with big publisher offers, because for agents, representation means more than just one book. And if they don’t care much for the book under contract, they won’t necessarily want to rep the author.

  7. Avatar Jessica says:

    So in a way it’s a good thing. I mean, do you really want an agent who’s basically using you to get a paycheck?
    I don’t.
    I want someone who likes/loves the way I write. Who believes in my work and is passionate about it.
    Regarding editor interest, I definitely think agents should be queried first. However, going to conferences and entering contests is how an editor might get a hold of something first. There are a lot more agents than editors, so I figure I’ll query the agents first.
    Because if I don’t get ONE single bite . . . well, that’s news that either my query letter sucks or there’s something off with my story.
    Just my opinion, though!
    Good luck, Anon 9:01.

  8. Avatar Janet says:

    I plan on querying agents first, for one very simple reason.

    If all the agents say no, I can still query at least some editors.

    If all the editors say no, there is not a single legitimate agent who would say yes.

  9. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Good post.

  10. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the post. I have a few friends who work in publishing, but *zero* contacts in the agenting world. I was wondering how to approach this.