Step-By-Step: Handling an Offer of Representation

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Aug 27 2019

You’ve been querying for a long time. Agents have requested your manuscript. You’ve been patient and you’ve worked hard. And then it happens. You get the call from an agent offering representation. You’re stunned, verklempt, and wondering what’s next.

Handling an offer of representation can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be hard. While I’ve written on this before there’s always room for an update and this time, I am giving you easy steps to guide you through the process.

Responding to that First Call

It’s absolutely normal and expected that when you get that first offer you’ll be too overwhelmed to know what to say or what questions to ask. Thank the agent who offered and set up another time to talk and ask your questions.

Plan Your Attack

Review the list of agents who have your manuscript and those who might be on your dream list, but who haven’t requested more yet. If it’s a big list, narrow it down to those you think you’d like to work with most. There’s no perfect number so you need to decide how many offers you’re willing to consider and how many phone calls you want to set up (should they all want to offer).

It’s okay not to contact everyone if there are some on there you don’t think you’d really want to work with. It’s also okay to contact those who might only have a query and haven’t yet requested more. This is your time, contact whoever you want.

Set a Timeframe

Agents like to know when you want an answer. Just like authors, we like deadlines. What works for you should work for them. Do you want to make the decision fast? Set your timeframe for a week. Do you want a little more wiggle room to talk with agents and think? Two weeks is standard. If you need longer, ask for more.

Notify All Agents

Agents using Query Manager have an easy “notify of offer” button on Query Manager or in the email you received requesting the submission. If you’re worried the agent won’t see that feel free to email as well.

Agents using email should be notified via email. Create a new email (instead of in the thread) and make sure the subject says — NOTIFICATION OF OFFER– or something similar. Yes, all caps is great.

Here’s a quick link to a notification form letter.

Interview all Interested Agents

Once you’ve notified everyone it’s time to go back to the original offering agent and ask all necessary questions. *There’s no exact order to how this needs to be done so feel free to interview before notifying others. Whatever feels right to you.

There are a ton of blog posts and videos on how to handle the interview and the questions. I won’t reiterate. Here are the links.

One thing that didn’t come through in these lists of questions (or I couldn’t find) is the important conversation about your book. Matching visions is the most important piece of an author-agent relationship (I’ll write more on this later), so knowing the agent’s vision for your book matters.

Making Your Choice

This can be really hard. Or not. My number one bit of advice is to trust your gut. This person won’t be working with your husband, your best friend or your critique group. This agent will be working for you.

Who were you most comfortable talking to? Who shared your vision? Which agent just felt right? That’s the agent you want to work with. Who do you want to spend your career with and who do you trust to help you make big decisions about things like contracts, covers, and your next book?

Don’t be afraid to schedule a second phone call with any agents you are debating between. You are hiring a business partner, someone you will pay to work with you to build your career. It’s important you do whatever you need to make the choice that’s right for you.

Finalizing the Deal

Now the fun begins. You get to call your new agent and let them know they are your final choice.

But…you also need to notify the other agents they weren’t. Email is fine and simple is fine. Thank them for their time and don’t hesitate to tell them who you signed with (they’re dying to know anyway). For agents this is as much a part of the job as rejection by agents is for authors. We can handle it, we will wish you well, and you should know, the door is always open.


Congratulations! You’ve worked hard for this moment. Don’t let it go by without taking the time to notice this monumental step in your career.

15 responses to “Step-By-Step: Handling an Offer of Representation”

  1. Avatar Lori Lorimer says:

    Hi Ms. Faust,
    Thank you for your informative blog posts. They are an immense help.
    My question is on another topic. My critique group has been having a heated discussion on POV and some are saying Third Person Close is the current favourite with agents and publishers and is not the same as Third Person Limited.
    I haven’t found a great deal of information on TPC. I’m currently writing in First, past tense, and like the intimacy the reader experiences with the character. Since Third Close uses the narrator’s voice instead of the character’s (and apparently allows for observations outside the character’s knowledge) I wonder about the benefits of this POV as opposed to others.
    Could you please comment on this confusing topic?
    Thanks for your time.

    • Write in the POV that works best for the book. This sounds like an English major trying to figure out the magic formula. There is no magic formula and few in publishing ever think of POV in those terms.

  2. Avatar Kacey Cluff says:

    Thank you for putting out this article. It was very informative. I will be looking up your other articles before airing a couple of questions which linger.

  3. Avatar Mark Iles says:

    What a wonderfully informative piece! I’m loving the posts so far but wondering if there are starts to a book that agents don’t like? I’m so aware that first impressions count and would like to avoid any immediate dislikes.

    • This will vary from agent to agents. Agents, like readers have personal interests and tastes and also have those openings they tire of. Know what you like and don’t like and go from there.

  4. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    Bookmarked for the day I need it…

  5. Avatar JOHN T. SHEA says:

    Many thanks for this very helpful piece!

  6. […] A shared vision is one of the most important aspects of an author-agent relationship. Lack of a shared vision is probably the number one reason an author parts ways with an agent. For that reason alone, vision should be a serious consideration when handing an offer of representation. […]

  7. Avatar Bill Galbreath says:

    Special thanks to you and everyone at Bookends for the very helpful information you put out. Whether we ever work together or not I am benefiting greatly from the things you share.

  8. Avatar Dan Brockington says:

    Very helpful indeed, thanks for putting this down.

  9. Avatar McKelle Anderson says:

    Thank you for this helpful post. I have a question I have not been able to find addressed anywhere and wondered if you might address it, here or on the YouTube channel. When we get an offer we are encouraged to contact other agents with our manuscript or query and let them know, thus giving us the chance to choose who feels like the best fit. I write picture books and I recently had an agent request to see more work. Should I be sending out other queries to additional agents at this time? I had received two rejections shortly before, so the number of queries I have out is only 3, including the one that requested additional manuscripts meaning that if an offer of rep did come, there are few agents to contact or choose between. (I know a request to see more work does not mean an offer is forthcoming, I am just looking ahead, in case). Thank you so much!

    • Avatar James McGowan says:

      Thank you for this great question, McKelle. We’ve added to our list to make a YouTube video! We hope to film and post that soon!

    • I do think we’ve done a video on how to submit. Honestly, I would keep submitting until you get an offer. There is no reason to put yourself and your querying on hold.

  10. Avatar Steven Unger says:

    Our book is a food and travel combination with about one hundred photos throughout, and the Proposal has a photo at the beginning of each chapter in the Outline. The query for Bookends and many other agencies doesn’t allow images. Should I just copy and paste the entire Proposal and write “Photo Here” wherever appropriate?

    • Avatar AJ Blythe says:

      Steven, from someone else in the query trenches, my suggestion would be to include [Photo: classic Aussie beef pie with a background of a mob of kangaroos] wherever there is supposed to be a photo. If agents are keen to see more they will ask for the photos and tell you how to send them.