Today’s question about communicating with literary agents while on submission comes from Peter:
I’m submitting simultaneous submissions (only when they say it’s OK, of course). I know it is common courtesy to let agents know the submission is not exclusive and inform the others when I receive representation from one. But what of the time in between? If I query two agents, and one emails me back with suggestions and asks me to resubmit, do I need to tell the other one? In other words, should I keep everyone in the loop of events prior to anything less than a signed contract?
Keeping Literary Agents in the Loop–How Much Is Too Much Communication?
Good question! There are a few things going on here. I’ll do my best to unpack them. I hope all of you are already as up-to-speed as this writer and know that when you’re communicating with literary agents, it is courtesy to both inform them when something is a simultaneous submission (and most things should be, you know how I feel about the exclusive submission to a literary agent), and when you receive an offer on a manuscript.
Now, some people are torn as to whether to contact EVERY agent who has the query when you receive an offer, even if they haven’t responded yet, or just those agents actively looking at fulls or partials.
I’m neutral on the issue. I’ve had querying writers inform me of an offer and this made me read their query immediately if I hadn’t already. I’ve also had writers whose fulls I was reading email me to tell me that someone had scooped me and offered quickly. Both work for me. What I don’t love is someone whose full I am considering emailing me to let me know that they’ve received an offer–and accepted it already–without letting me have time to decide whether I’d also like a chance at the manuscript.
Communicating With Literary Agents When You Receive an Offer
Of course, I understand that sometimes you have an instant connection with an offering agent and all other agents start to immediately look like chopped liver. But the usual time to inform everyone is when you receive an offer. If you do accept without giving anyone else a chance, a courtesy notice to other agents actively looking at your work is, of course, appropriate, but try and make them aware earlier.
What I don’t care about are partial and full requests you’re getting while I either have your query or full manuscript. There is no need to keep everyone informed about this. I understand the psychology behind writers sometimes think this is a good idea, but it’s more annoying than anything. They want you to think, “What a hot commodity! I must read immediately!”
This is what I think instead, “As nice as they feel to this writer, partial and full requests are actually quite common. Depending on the agent, however, they could mean very little in terms of getting an offer, and we all know it.” This type of nudge email is just that: a nudge. And, the more often a writer does it, the more annoying they might start to seem.
My response may not apply to communicating with literary agents across the board, but the above are pretty standard best practices that you can follow to play fair and also not antagonize the agents you’re hoping to impress. If it’s an offer, keep us in the loop. If you’d like to withdraw your query, partial, or full for any reason, keep us in the loop. Otherwise, wait. I know it’s tough, but it makes a good impression if you can be patient.
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