How Agents Prepare an Offer of Representation

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jun 01 2021

Typically when an author receives an offer of representation they give the other agents about two weeks to respond. This could be two full weeks or two business weeks. That’s really up to the author.

There’s a reason why giving a little more time benefits not just agents, but authors too.

The Benefit of Time for Authors

Rushing an agent too fast, by giving them only a few days, doesn’t benefit you as the author. It doesn’t give agents time to fully read and evaluate your manuscript and it doesn’t give you enough time to set up calls with all potential agents.

The most important part of this process is to give you, the author, as many agents to choose from and the time to really have in-depth conversations with each of them and evaluate your needs, who you most connected with and which person is the right one to be your business partner.

What Agents Are Doing

Once an agent receives notification about about an offer of representation the real work begins for us. On top of the work we’re already doing for our clients.

Remember, an agent’s primary job is not to read submissions. Which means when we get such an offer we need to drop other things, including client work, and sometimes weekend projects, and find time to read quickly.

First, we need to read the book and if we intend to throw our hats into the ring, we need to read the entire book. I don’t know about you, but in my busy life, it’s hard to find time to sit down and read a book cover-to-cover. A manuscript is the same. If I’m going to do that I need a little more than a day to get it done.

Also, honestly, the ability to put down the book to see how desperately I want to get back to it and how much I think about it, is part of the consideration process.

A weekend is most useful for me to get this done. It’s usually on weekends when I read the bulk of my submissions. So if you’re notifying me on Monday that you need an answer on Thursday, there’s a good chance I’m just going to have to bail. I won’t be able to find the time between my already hefty workload and my lifeload to really read consciously.

Once I finish the book, I might ask others here to take a second look. I’ll need to process my thoughts on revisions and the marketing of the book and I’ll need to come up with a list of editors. It’s not simply reading and offering. It’s planning for a possible business partnership.

I also need to prepare for our phone call, because I will not offer representation before talking with the author and making sure we’re a good fit and have the same vision for the book. It wouldn’t be fair to me, but it certainly wouldn’t be fair to the author.

And then there is a phone call. There has to be time for you, the author, to evaluate how that went after it happened.

I know getting to the point of an offer is a long process and I also get the desire to just accept and move on to your next steps, but giving both you and the agent time to determine whether the partnership will be a strong one is what builds a career and not just one signed contract.

7 responses to “How Agents Prepare an Offer of Representation”

  1. Avatar Kim Beall says:

    The last time I got an offer (though, unfortunately, it was not from an agent but from a “small publisher” ;p ) I did that whole thing of emailing everyone who had asked to read my manuscript. I told them I hoped to give my reply to the publisher at the end of that month, which was more than two weeks away. Mostly, nobody replied, but one agent send back a very snarky reply, telling me how she didn’t have time to do things on my strict schedule haveanicelife bye! I was really taken aback at the time – I’d thought I was just extending a common professional courtesy, but she acted like I was being some kind of pushy, manipulative jerk. In retrospect, I see now that I actually had done the right thing, and also that it’s a good thing I didn’t end up working with that agent after all!

  2. Excellent post! Thank you for letting us writers know what happens in your world during one of the most important, thrilling, potentially life-changing, and scary times in our lives. (Did I mention thrilling? What about scary, important, and potentially life-changing?) I think it’s important for us writers to understand that an offer is an offer. It’s not going to be rescinded if we request a couple of weeks to inform other agents, check in with other authors you rep, and to just, plain think things through. Most of us have waited years to get to this point, so what’s another two weeks? (Besides not being able to eat, sleep, or have rational thoughts…!) xo

  3. […] Jessica Faust at Bookends discusses how agents decide to offer representation and what goes into preparation for the offer […]

  4. Avatar Dolores Johnson says:

    Thank you. Interesting to see this process from the other point of view.

    • Avatar K.D Williams says:

      An excellent post. I think what I’ll take away from this post is to be patient with agents and your road to success. Agents have a heavy workload thanks for sharing what goes on behind the scenes !

  5. Avatar Jim N says:

    “Also, honestly, the ability to put down the book to see how desperately I want to get back to it and how much I think about it, is part of the consideration process.”

    This was impactful for me. Does my MS compel the reader to turn every page? Would a super-busy person “blow off” her current to-do list to see where my story goes?

    This is a useful test and one I will apply on my next edit. Thanks!