The Submission Race
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Nov 02 2006
I got a letter today from an author pulling her work from submission. Apparently she had found other representation, and hopefully it is someone she loves and feels truly connected to. Most important, though, I hope it is an agent she trusts, values, and can work well with. I wish her nothing but the best and continued success. Believe it or not, I wish that of all writers.
However, I’m kicking myself. I wish I were magic and could read things faster. I wish Kim, Jacky, and Donniee (our assistant) had nothing better to do than read all week so we could stay on top of these things. Does it mean I would have offered myself? Not necessarily, but at least I would have played (as we say in the biz).
I don’t want to get into another discussion about hiring readers and how agents should read faster, blah, blah, blah. I’m bored with that. All agents and all editors face this sort of rejection regularly. When doing anything in life we have to prioritize, and in this case I prioritized another author’s submission over this one. Did I lose? Not necessarily, but I’m happy to hear that this author won.
A few months ago I finished a project and sent out five query letters to agents. All five were agents I looked forward to working with.
One answered right away. She admitted that my query had just landed on her desk and she picked it up and read it (serendipity – it somehow missed the query pile). She offered me representation a week later, after several letters back and forth, sample chapters, the full, and a discussion about terms and expectations.
I wrote to the four other agents, telling them that the work was no longer available.
I felt bad (although none had replied yet) because all four were agents I would have loved working with.
I’m very happy with my agent –
but I wanted to let you know that turning down the others was a wrench. I’d spent a lot of time narrowing my choice down to five agents, & every one of them was a winner to me.
Why not look at agencies who do have a quick turn-around rate for ideas?
Well, it’s a crapshoot, and it’s nice that somebody actually wins. Good luck to all.
For every one you miss, there’s another jewel in the pile. That’s the nice thing about a bottomless query pit!
So is it good or bad to notify agents who may be looking if one is offered representation? It seems to me that if you queried lets say five agents, and three seem interested then it’s only fair to keep them all informed and give them all a chance. I mean, you wouldn’t be querying people who you wouldn’t accept representation from, correct? So would it count against me if one offered representation and I delayed long enough to talk to the others to make sure it was the best fit? also, at that point is it appropriate to call a prospective agent to speed the process up at all?
If an agent offers representation, and you’re willing to sign, it is common courtesy to contact other agents who have your submission in their queue.
It leaves the agents free to remove your submission from their pile, and hopefully they’ll find their own jewel that much sooner.
“So would it count against me if one offered representation and I delayed long enough to talk to the others to make sure it was the best fit?”
It sounds as if agents expect there to be competition, and so that would be ok. I don’t know how comfortable I’d be with taking one offer and waving it in front of other agents. Sort of seems like inciting a bidding war over a client.
If I were in that position, I might wait a week to see if the others came back. If not, that first agent obviously loved my work enough to offer, and if I’d done my job and vetted before I submitted, what more could I ask for than an agent who loves my work and is hot to trot with it?
And who wants an agent who would only get interested in the work after someone else said yes?