Tag Archives: do the right thing

The One That Got Away: When An Author Declines Representation

I offered representation to a great author the other day. I’d had her full manuscript a long time (3 months, which is very long for me) and I just hadn’t had a chance to get to it until now. I read almost the whole 400 pages over the weekend and it was fabulous. I e-mailed her when I was about 3/4 of the way done and asked her if she was available for a phone call. We set it up for Monday.

The call went well, I guess. I could feel her excitement thrumming through the phone. It must be fantastic for an author to be getting THE CALL. She was about to say something like, “Yes! Yes! I’d love for you to represent me!” Or at least I think she was. And I slowed her down, reminded her to keep breathing, and gave her some advice.

I’ve said something like this to everyone I’ve offered representation to: “Please don’t accept my offer in this phone call. It’s important for you to make this decision when you’re not all amped up. When you’ve had a chance to formulate any questions and think about all of your options.” Then I recommended that she e-mail the other agents that had requested full manuscripts from her. That’s the part that bit me in the ass. I know that’s the right thing to do. I mean, it really is. It’s just common courtesy. But it also sets off a feeding frenzy.

When an agent (myself included) hears that someone else has offered a writer representation it’s a signal to take a closer, quicker look at the manuscript that’s been sitting in their inbox, to see what the fuss is about. Why is someone else interested in this person? Should I be interested? If so, I’d better make my move! I’d better do it quickly! I’d better do it now!!!!! And that’s how an author can go from zero offers of representation to 3 or 4, within a day.

So I reminded this lovely young writer to do the right thing and let the other agents know. And then she had multiple offers. And then she said “thanks, but…” to me. Dang it. She’s a great writer. I really do wish her the best success. But I’m pretty disappointed. I’m not taking it personally (much) because I know I’m a good agent, but still it kind of stings.

Don’t you hate it when doing the right thing bites you in the ass?!



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