5

I've edited the question for clarity following some unexpected comments in the first answer.

I submitted my latest novel to a handful of agents, and had a request for a full manuscript.

On almost all of the agency's submisson guidelines, they state that if they haven't got back to you and another agent shows interest, to please let them know asap, so they can check to see if they might be interested as well.

Supporting info - I've read from several sources in the industry that although it's easy to get very excited when an agent first shows interest, it's important to make sure you end up with the right one - as it should be a lifetime, career affecting relationship. In much the way that you don't marry the first person who says they fancy you. So it seems sensible to maximise your chances of being able to meet a few different ones and see which one is the best fit.

So, I informed the agents that hadn't got back to me yet, but one of them has replied asking me to tell them which other agent I submitted to.

Presumbly they are asking to check that I'm not just making it up, or that it's not some hicky nobody agent.

It is a very well known and respcted agency who has asked for the full, so that's not a problem from that point of view - but my question is should I tell them anyway?

Is it really relevant? Either they want the read it or not, right?

My feeling is that if the only reason they're interested is because someone else important is interested, then they're probably not the right one for me anyway.

2

I found myself in exactly your position last year.

Should I notify other agents of requests for the full?

Yes, you should absolutely tell every agent that someone has asked for the full.

Why?

I will disagree with Amadeus here (a rare moment indeed) and say that they aren’t suddenly showing interest in your manuscript just because another agent is interested, it’s all about timing and the size of their slush piles.

Agents have massive slush piles and they want to know if they are close to losing a golden opportunity because you’re about to sign and they haven’t even had time to read it yet. It will bring your MS straight to the top of the slush pile. They’ll still say no if they aren’t interested, they won’t care if someone else thought it was good if they don’t.

Choosing an agent

Whilst you want to choose the most respected agent with the best contacts in publishing and a reputation for securing good deals, I think personality is VERY important when working with an agent. If you sign with someone you can’t get along with, that is going to be very problematic indeed. If your book needs a lot of editing before submission, you will spend a lot of time with your agent. I had lunch with one agent and it took me fifteen minutes to decide I wouldn’t want to spend more than an hour with him, even though he was with one of the largest UK agencies and had a good reputation for deals.

It’s also very important that you see eye to eye on the future of the book. Another agent wanted to change my story completely and strip out everything that I loved about the book. I didn’t sign with her.

Should I tell?

Whether you should tell is very difficult indeed. Two agents asked me who else was involved in the race. I held back at first and said I wasn’t sure it was appropriate, but as we talked more, they squeezed it out of me.

They aren’t checking up on you. Agents are very clever at spotting smoke without fire, because they talk to each other. Many of them are friends and they enjoy a little friendly competition. They were very professional about their competition and even said things like, ‘Yes, she’s lovely, you can’t go wrong with her, but… I’d much rather you signed with me!’ There were no repercussions from being open. But it’s your judgement call. It’s a difficult one. Like you, I had no idea whether it was a good decision or not, but it worked out fine in the end.

What really freaked me out was going to meet one agent, only to find out they shared offices with another who had offered me rep. Now THAT was uncomfortable!!

I wish you all the luck in the world and hope you receive at least one offer. Even being asked for the full is something to celebrate! Don't get prematurely excited, but I think you're allowed a jar down the pub!

EDIT: Just thought of three more points:

It's London Book Fair time. If you're UK based (but it's a huge fair, so this applies overseas as well), you may find it takes longer to hear back from some of the agents. The book fair is a massive event in their calendars and very little moves around this time of year.

If an agent does call and ask for a meeting, don't assume they are offering you representation. It's just a meeting (it's a great sign, however). They will let you know during the meeting if they feel you're a good fit for each other. It is an opportunity to decide if it's a good fit for BOTH of you.

Also, if you get the opportunity to meet more than one agent, don't be rushed into signing. Tell the agents that you have had X requests for the full and have promised you won't make a decision until everyone has had a chance to read it. Take the time you need to consider, it's a big decision.

Good luck!

  • Many thanks - was beginning to think posting this question here was a mistake, so very encouraging to get a useful answer from someone who not only grasps the situation but has experienced it! Really useful advice and thank you for your kind words - I agree, it's a time for great celebration but trying not to get carried away... Also congrats on your own success :) – TheNovelFactory Mar 9 at 8:34
  • @TheNovelFactory You're welcome. I wish I knew then what I do now about the industry, and wish I'd had someone to help me. When I was in your shoes I was flailing around like a kitten in a bathtub!! I had no idea what to do, but it worked out well in the end. Yes, I would caution you about getting excited. I was asked for the full on my first MS and it still got universally rejected afterwards. It was my 2nd MS that generated all that buzz. – GGx Mar 9 at 10:20
  • But look, if you get an offer, drop a note to me on here (make sure you add @GGx so I get a notification) and I'll give you my details. As I say, there's a lot I wish I'd known and I'm happy to share it if you find yourself flailing too. Exciting times though, eh? Good luck! I've got all my fingers and toes crossed for you. – GGx Mar 9 at 10:21
  • Thank you so much! I'll definitely drop you a line if I get an offer :) – TheNovelFactory Mar 9 at 13:24
2

Edited in response to OP's edit:

I think it would be a mistake to tell them who, and I think it would be a mistake to go with an agent that is only prompted to read your full manuscript because another agent decided it was good.

You say many of their sites say to let them know if somebody else asks for the full manuscript: If the agent that DID ask for the full manuscript has such a request on her site, then I'd go ahead and tell the other agents somebody has asked for the full manuscript.

I'd certainly give priority to the first agent that asked for it un-prompted and only because they thought your writing was good enough to take a closer look.

Other than personality, I don't think you are going to get any better deal by looking at other agents, especially if they didn't think your query and/or sample wasn't good enough on its own merit. I expect the terms for the agent, with an unknown first-time author, are going to be the same. The terms a particularly successful agent might get for your book from a publisher might be different.

If they demand something, and your agent belongs to a large firm, you might be able to tell them which firm it is. I'm still not sure that's a good idea. Personally, I think if they asked me to be informed if somebody requested the full manuscript, I am informing them that somebody did; and if they choose not to believe me, so be it. I'd ask them to review the sample you sent, or you are happy to send them the full manuscript, and judge it on its merits, pass or fail, not on who else is interested in it.

  • 1
    Most of the agents state on their submission pages that if another agent shows interest before they have got back to you with an answer either way, to let them know, so they can hurry up and take a look if they haven't got to it yet. So not sure what the accusations of being an 'opportunist who will always go to the highest bidder' are about. Perhaps this was not the correct forum for this question. – TheNovelFactory Mar 8 at 13:57
  • @TheNovelFactory If they state that, then let them know, but I still would not tell them which agent, and I'd still give the first agent priority. – Amadeus Mar 8 at 14:31
  • I have edited my question to address some of your points – TheNovelFactory Mar 8 at 15:11
  • I feel like you're still missing the point that it's not about agents taking another look at a manuscript they've already rejected, but about prioritising looking at a submission that they haven't got to in the hundreds they receive every day. Also, it's not short term thinking about 'getting a better deal' it's about taking the time and finding the right person to entrust your writing career to. – TheNovelFactory Mar 9 at 8:31
  • @TheNovelFactory Okay. Your question is whether you should give out specific information that would identify your agent, when requested to do so by another agent. My answer is no, I don't think you should. Although if the agency name is not enough to identify the individual agent, then revealing that might be fine. – Amadeus Mar 9 at 11:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.