Passing a Submission to Another Agent

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jul 13 2015

The other day I read a submission that I thought was really strong and had great potential. However, given my already busy client list I didn’t think I was going to be the best agent for the project. This book needed someone who could be truly passionate about it, who had a love for the genre and who had the time and desire to really work with the author on the project. Instead of just passing however, I passed it on to another agent at BookEnds. Someone who fit every one of the criteria I thought the book needed.

When I do something like this I often wonder what the author will think. Does the author later think less of the offer she receives because it isn’t the agent she submitted to, although it is the agency? or Does the author think this is a great opportunity because her project definitely landed in the right hands?

As we see when we receive responses to rejections, every author is different. Some will be offended that the agent they first submitted to didn’t want it in the first place and others will be elated that the agency as a whole felt so strongly about the book.

Like everyone else, an agent only has a finite number of hours in the day and can only represent so many clients and give them the attention she feels they deserve. When reviewing submissions, we at BookEnds are reviewing for ourselves first and the agency second. We all work very closely together and that doesn’t just mean bouncing ideas off each other, it means working hard to get as many great books published as we can, and helping each other build a strong career as an agent.

When we pass a project on to another agent within BookEnds it doesn’t mean we didn’t think it was great and are tossing our trash onto someone else’s pile. In fact, it’s the complete opposite, we think the book has some real potential and were excited about its possibilities, but feel it needs to be with the right agent, not any agent.

I’m going to pre-empt some questions here and say that we don’t always pass everything on so if you feel there are two agents at BookEnds who might be right for your book feel free to query them both. Never at the same time, but if the first passes there’s no reason you can’t try the second. Just don’t tell anyone else I said that. 😉


9 responses to “Passing a Submission to Another Agent”

  1. While I didn't used to feel this way, I've definitely come around to the idea of an agency as a whole as being what attracts me vs pinning my hopes on a particular agent. I feel this is useful, because it works so much better in matching my writing to the best agent vs just someone I like a lot (presumably, the 2 things will match though, right?).

    In the past, I had queried one agent at an agency, and she passed along to her colleague, with whom I later signed. In that case, I remember being on the fence on which of these 2 agents to query, so it worked out well.

    I am no longer with that agent (amicable parting), and my new experiences have me seeing an agency as a whole. There are agents I follow on Twitter that seem like it would be great to work with, but they aren't really good fits for my books… but other agents at their agency, who I may not know as well, *are* looking for my stuff. And while each agent is individual in tastes, usually the whole agency shares a philosophical outlook in the business, and that's a plus. Ultimately, I want someone who can champion my book(s), so if an agent passes my submission on to a colleague, it's still a win.

    Based upon what I have seen in the writerly community, any interest in a submission is a win no matter what. 🙂

  2. Avatar Elissa M says:

    I would absolutely love it if the originally targeted agent passed a query on to a colleague. True, the colleague might pass, too, but surely a query sent over by a fellow agent would get a closer look than a cold-call in the inbox. That's never a bad thing in my view.

  3. Avatar Kim Wedlock says:

    Personally I'd be over the moon, especially if I got an offer from the agent you'd passed my work on to. I think a lot of authors are worried that their work might not be worth anyone's time, but pluck up the courage to submit it anyway. Being rejected can knock your confidence – it did for me the first time and I stopped writing for 6 months because of it. I've learned my lesson since, though!
    But I also think, if I was an agent, I wouldn't pass on any work to another colleague unless I thought it had potential.
    As an author, my writing might not fit your taste, but if you think it's good enough to take up the time of a colleague and pass it on to them – effectively putting your personal stamp of approval on it – that's almost as good as getting a positive response from the agent I submitted to in the first place!
    Like Elissa M said, that stamp of approval would probably generate more interest than a 'cold-call in the inbox'!

    So, personally, I'd be really pleased. Far better that than an outright rejection, any way!

  4. Avatar John Frain says:

    I can only speak for this writer, but I'd celebrate if an agent forwarded my query to a colleague. I can't think of a better endorsement.

    I'd still have right of refusal, so I can't even think of a downside.

    On the upside, you guys likely know better than us which agent is best for a particular book in spite of how much research we try to do on each agent and agency.

  5. Like the commenters above, I'd be thrilled. As writers, we do what research we can, but we don't know the agents in a firm the same way the agents themselves do.

  6. Avatar Kaye George says:

    I certainly didn't mind when you handed me over to Kim Lionetti, since we're now working together and I'm VERY happy about that!

  7. Avatar Jennifer Ryan says:

    Do you let the author know that you have passed it on?

  8. Jennifer Ryan:

    That depends on the situation honestly. There's no rule to how we handle it.


  9. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    Yep, like everyone else here I'd be thrilled if my query got flicked on. Even if that second agent passed the knowledge someone saw something in it enough to recommend it to a colleague would be awesome.