You’ve got an offer of representation. Now what? — a post from Molly

One of the most thrilling parts of my job is offering representation to authors whose work knocks my socks off. I get to share my delight at finding a fantastic project, and I get to make someone really, really happy. There’s nothing quite like that kind of rush.

When I offer rep, I always ask the author to tell the other agents considering her manuscript that she’s got an offer, and to let me know within a week or so if she’s decided to work with me. After all the effort and time an author puts into her project, she owes it to herself to make a considered decision, and if other agents are reviewing her full manuscript, they deserve not to have their reading time wasted. I hope I’ve made my case for why I’m the right person to represent her and her work, I make myself available to answer questions, and then I wait while she gets responses from the other agents to whom she’s submitted. Then I complete a variety of superstitious tasks that I’m not sharing here. Trade secret, sorry.

It’s nerve-wracking to wait for the author’s response, but it’s necessary. Marry in haste, repent at leisure, the proverb goes — so I want my clients to give my offer a good deal of thought, weigh their other options, and choose me with the same enthusiasm with which I’ve chosen them.

If you’re offered representation, do tell the other agents who are reading your work. They may be almost finished reading it; who knows? They might be about to call you too. My agent colleagues all have a story like this one: They’re reading something they like. They Google the author. They find that last week, the author blogged all about her brand new agent. And the author hadn’t withdrawn the project from submission, let alone given anyone else a chance to make an offer. Wouldn’t it be better to kick off a publishing career with a clean bill of karma?

I know some authors have “dream agents” (an idea I’m not keen on, because you don’t necessarily know who the best agent for your work would be until you speak with her). But even if your dream agent offers you representation, hear out any others who are interested in you—even if you turn them down, you’ll get some different perspectives on your work. And you’ll already be building a reputation as a professional.

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