When You Get an Offer of Representation

This is the situation every querying writer is looking forward to: getting an offer of representation. Awesome. Now what? Well, I want to write several posts on this issue, but here’s the first thing you need to do… let other agents know.

offer of representation, literary agent offer
You got an offer of representation: now what?

Literary Agent Offer: What About the Other Agents You Queried?

Don’t let everyone you queried know that you received another literary agent offer. Let only the agents who have responded with a partial request, a full request, or any other kind of encouraging sign, and have not given you their decision yet. The only exception is with a picture book submission, where you’ve queried with a full manuscript. Since you sent the full manuscript, contact all the agents you queried. Write them the following email and put “OFFER RECEIVED” in the subject line:

Dear Mary,

I know you’re still reading BOOK TITLE but I wanted to let you know that I’ve received an offer of representation. I’d like to see if you’re also interested in the project. Please get back to me by X day and let me know. I look forward to hearing from you!


Offer of Representation: Timetable for Response

Give the agent a week to respond. Within the day, you should hear back from agents. They’ll either say, “Yes, I’m still reading and will get back to you within the week” or, “You know, I should probably step aside at this point.” Then you wait for the agents who still want to consider to either bow out or toss in their own literary agent offer. But yes, let them know immediately. It’s not being pushy. Someone already sees the value in your work, so you can call attention to yourself in this situation.

I hope all of you get to experience what it’s like to receive an offer of representation! Once you’ve crossed that hurdle, follow the link to read my post on questions you should ask your potential literary agent.

My editorial services aren’t just for manuscripts. I also offer confidential and discrete consulting services for authors who have questions about literary agents and career trajectory.

32 Replies to “When You Get an Offer of Representation”

  1. Spot on! Timely post, Mary. Thanks for the example of the letter you’d like to see.

  2. Mary, the example letter is extremely helpful. Sometimes we have a general idea on what we should do, but absolutley no idea on how to execute it properly.

  3. Thanks, Mary. Like Cat, I greatly appreciate the example.

  4. Thanks! The idea of telling an agent “Please get back to my by X day” is scary, but maybe I’ll feel braver if somebody has actually told me my work is good…

  5. Melissa — Exactly. You’ve already got an offer. You’re not just some slush-dweller. We’re just people. You have a business matter to discuss with us. End of story.

  6. Oh how I dream of the day when I must write such a letter!

  7. Hey Mary – Awesome post. Good to know. Hope to experience it in 2010!

    See you soon!

  8. This sort of email seems like the only letter more difficult than a query to write. It’s so hard to strike the balance between assertive and humble. Thanks for the example!

  9. Deliliah — Now you don’t have to write it. That’s the email, right there. No ego necessary. It is just delivering information. No need to read into anything or freak out. I guarantee your recipient will only spend 5 seconds reading it. Then they’ll move on to considering your submission and their response, which is the most important part.

    Folks. It’s a business email to hash out the details of a certain thing. Remember: WE WANT TO WORK WITH GOOD WRITERS AND HAVE THEM AS CLIENTS. When we know someone else has offered, that tells us you’re a hot, desirable writer, and WE IMMEDIATELY LIKE YOU. What’s to freak about?

  10. Natalie Aguirre says:

    Thanks for the helpful advice, especially the example letter. I was just wondering about this topic. One question I have is if another agent expresses interest, how quickly do you try to move the decision of that agent so that you can get back to the first one?

  11. Natalie — I don’t know what you mean by “try to move the decision of that agent”? As I said in the post, once you receive an offer, give everyone else who’s reading your partials or fulls one week to respond.

  12. Mary, the one thing that I always is wonder is whether we should mention the name of the agent offering representation. Do most agents see the example you posted as insufficient, or may it come off as being ‘secretive’?

  13. Weronika — Not necessary. Of course, I’m human and I ALWAYS want to know who I’m up against. However, I usually don’t ask. Don’t feel pressured to offer the information if you don’t want to. The letter — and y’all don’t seem to believe me for some reason — is perfectly sufficient. Obviously, don’t make up that you got an offer to try and galvanize agents. That is absolutely shady.

  14. Thanks! It feels too simple, that’s why, but I’ll use this exact example in the future, if I’m ever in this position.

  15. Just dreaming of the day when I can tell several agents I got an offer. I’m just starting the query process though so fingers crossed.

  16. What do you say to the agent who made you the offer? That you have to decide whether they’re the right person to represent that book? Or that you some time to let the other agents chime in? I’d be worried about offending the first person who want to shop my material around.

  17. Charles — It may be your first time getting offered representation but it’s definitely not our first time offering it, so we know that every writer has most probably submitted to other agents, too! Good question — AGAIN, STOP FREAKING OUT ABOUT OFFENDING US — and here’s the answer:

    “Thank you so much for your offer. It was really great talking to you (or whatever). I’ve got the full out with a few other agents right now. I’m going to give them a courtesy week to chime in and I’ll let you know by next Wednesday (or whatever). I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

    BAM! Call me the publishing Emeril.

  18. Mary, your comment to Delilah, “folks, it’s a business email,” is what I’ve been waiting to hear from an agent. Most of the time there’s a mystery curtain draped over the agent’s door, and if you touch it wrong terrible things will happen. Goodness.

    I plan to enter your current contest, and have posted a link on Linked-in and Facebook for you. I hope they stir further interest.

    BTW, in the right-hand column of this page, just about opposite the reply box I’m writing in, there’s apparently a link to “Editorial Ass.” Well. I know some people have a low opinion of editors, but, Mary, I don’t think you should let it hang out there like that!

  19. Margaret — Thanks for your kind words and I got your nod on LinkedIn today. And if you click on Editorial Ass, you’ll see that’s the name of the blog! She’s the one hanging out there! (I hope your comment was a joke but if not, just clarifying.) 🙂

  20. Natalie Aguirre says:

    Thanks for your answer to Charles’ question. That was really mine, though not articulated that well. Your advice is really helpful.

  21. Natalie — Oh, got it! Glad I answered. Sorry I didn’t get it the first time. 🙂

  22. Thank you for the examples – what an embarrassment of riches that would be! I appreciate you taking the time to keep us writers on the right track. It’s great to get a little guidance in these things.

  23. Thanks for all the frank and fearless advice on your blog! I’m wondering what a writer should do if they are ever in the most enviable position of having more than one agent wanting to represent them? How do you go about choosing one, without burning your bridges with the other? Are there any pitfalls to avoid?

    Or is that a situation that only exists in dreams?

    Thanks again for all the great advice. I wish I’d found your site at the beginning of my query journey.

  24. This is a wonderful article about agents, but I wonder if the same rules apply with a publisher? I’ve come across a couple publishers interested in my manuscript, but then I don’t know how to go about conducting business with them to be beneficial to my story.

  25. Ashley — My advice would be to get an agent. Otherwise, follow the submission guidelines the publishers gave you when they expressed interest and submit. However, there are a lot of bogus publishers and vanity presses out there. You should never pay a cent to have your manuscript published and no reputable publisher would demand that from you. If you receive an offer, do the above.

  26. This is great advice for all looking for an agent! I just started to read through your blog and I can’t wait to finish 🙂 there are so many great tips and hints! Thanks for taking the time to do this!

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