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What If Multiple Agents Want Your Work?

OK. So you’ve sent out your e-mails, had a few responses, and now it’s down to two or more agents who’ve made you offers. You’ve politely but firmly told them that you have to speak with everyone before making a decision. Now what? E-mail them, say there are several agents interested, and that you’d like to set up a phone meeting. I know, I know, it’s scary. This column by agent Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary is an excerpt from GET AN AGENT, a 128-page magazine all about finding an agent.

OK. So you’ve sent out your e-mails, had a few responses, and now it’s down to two or more agents who’ve made you offers. You’ve politely but firmly told them that you have to speak with everyone before making a decision. Now what? E-mail them, say there are several agents interested, and that you’d like to set up a phone meeting. I know, I know, it’s scary. But you will (one hopes) be calling up your agent for years to come—it’s worth it to know what that will be like. And even if you’re a hot mess (or, more likely, an overcaffeinated one) on the phone, they’ll still want your book.

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This column by agent Jessica Sinsheimer of
Sarah Jane Freymann Literary is an excerpt
from GET AN AGENT, a 128-page magazine
all about finding an agent. The publication
is in bookstores now
, and has info on
queries, synopses, Chapter 1 tips,
proposals, copyright, and much more.


Don’t be nervous; they’ll do most of the talking—they are, after all, auditioning for you. Don’t be afraid to spend a moment on pleasantries—if anything, it’ll calm you down and make you sound more professional and less scared. Try something like: "Hi, how are you, did you have a good holiday? Great, so I was calling to get a better sense of each interested agent …" Prepare a list of questions for each. Here’s a jumping-off point:

What editorial comments do you have? What would you like me to change/expand/cut out?

  • What do you like about my work? (If they don’t answer this themselves, it’s unusual, but keep asking until you have a good sense as to why.)
  • What have you sold recently? In this genre? (We’ll assume you’ve done some research before querying this agent, but it’s all right to ask.)
  • Do you have an idea of the editors you’d send this to?
  • How soon could you send this out (after the edits are completed)?
  • What kind of feedback do you give your writers? How much communication would there be? Would I hear about everything as it happens, or would you call and tell me when the deal is done?

Be wary of agents who say, “Your work is perfect! I wouldn’t dare change a comma!” (Some agents minimize the work involved to tempt you.) Or, “This is going to be the biggest bestseller, like, ever!” (No one knows in this market.) Or, “I can promise you’ll have a gold-plated private jet for your international book tour!” (Unrealistic—plus, wouldn’t it be too heavy to fly?) Or, “I’m the only one who can sell this." (Unprofessional on many levels.) They should care about making the work the best it can be—just for the sake of it reaching its full potential. Also, see if they seem like a nice person. You’ll be entrusting them with your work, after all, and will want to feel comfortable seeking their advice in all that’s about to happen.

(See the rest of the article and
so much more inside GET AN AGENT.)

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