Tag Archives: manuscript submission

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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Finding a New Client: Biography of a “Yes”

I finished reading a manuscript the other day and about half way through I started to know I would be offering the author representation. You’re asking yourself, “How did she know?!” Well, here’s what happened…

First of all, the query had been riveting; it captivated me from the very first sentence. I read the first 20 pages and loved it, so I e-mailed asking for the full manuscript. As I read through other queries coming in over the next few days I waited impatiently for this coveted full to come in. After a week or so I re-e-mailed the author, asking if she’d gotten my request for the full. When she e-mailed me back that she’d already sent it I frantically searched through all my g-mail files. I found it, apologized profusely and jumped back in to reading, starting from the beginning again. And then… I couldn’t put it down! Laundry did not get done; my kids fended for themselves for dinner; I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning, only to awake at 6:30 and read some more before I got out of bed. I kept my fingers crossed the whole time I was reading: Please don’t let this plot jump off a cliff somewhere in the middle or near the end and die a horrible death… (or worse, start to be just plain dumb-ass or boring) I prayed, please, please, please stay as good as the beginning! And it did! It is a unique story told in a distinct way. It somehow manages to be funny, lyrical, poignant, informative, snarky, heart breaking and magical… When I finished, I took a deep breath and had to refrain from calling the author that moment. I e-mailed and asked if we could speak after the weekend. And then I let the manuscript percolate through me. I didn’t or couldn’t read anything else for a day or so. When we spoke that Monday and I offered representation I’m not sure which of us was more excited.

I get an unbelievable number of queries (unbelievable to me!) for a new agent. I am extremely discerning, knowing that I can only take on the very best of the best if I’m going to make it in this industry. So it’s a huge challenge, passing on manuscripts that are ok or good, because I’m looking for amazing. And this is that. I feel so lucky to have found this needle in the haystack and extremely grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of my extraordinary clients.

What book have you recently read that has gripped you so hard you had a difficult time putting it down?

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