When multiple agents make an offer

29 Nov

by Susan Dennard


Goofy and I are back to wrap up our last post: When an agent requests your manuscript.  So please, put on your imagination caps (or Disney caps — whatever), and imagine the snide voice-over yet again!

Also, if you want to see how I (Susan, not snide narrator) actually handled the Great Agent Hunt — from query prep, to querying, to offers, to choosing — I’m talking about it this week on my blog. 🙂

Now onwards!


I gart too many choices...

Agents!  Everyone wants one, but no one can seem to find them.  More elusive than a bird-of-paradise, and even easier to scare off for good.  Demand far outweighs supply.

Except when it doesn’t.

More and more often these days, when a writer gets an offer, they wind up with several offers.  >1 agent wants to get their hands on the manuscript because it’s a darn good story, it’s well-written, and it’s highly commercial.

So what do you do in this situation?  How the heck do you choose just one?

First Things First

First, make sure that you have notified all other agents in possession of the manuscript and given them a response-deadline (see When an agent requests your manuscript to learn how).

Second, DO NOT REFUSE ANYONE before the time is up OR before all agents have responded.  You may, of course, make a decision, but don’t notify anyone until you’ve reached your deadline or all agents have said yay/nay.  Again, this is described in more depth in When an agent requests your manuscript.

Now onto the Famous Call.

What To Ask During The Call

Be sure to gargle plenty of salt water and practice your phone-voice.  You want to make your best impression, after all.  And also, be sure to avoid phrases like, “Garsh” or “Huh-hyuck.”  These do not give off an impression of intelligence.

Prior to the call, you should prepare a series of questions to give each agent.  Even if you have only one offer, you should do this.  Some important things to consider are:

  • How did you get to be an agent?
  • How many clients do you have now?
  • What professional organizations are you a part of?
  • Do you handle film rights?  Foreign rights?  Audio rights?
  • Are you a hands on agent?  Or do you prefer to leave all that to the writer alone?
  • In what “state” do you think my book is?  In other words, how much editing do feel it still needs?
  • What would be your timeline for submitting?
  • How often do you like to check in with your clients?
  • Do you charge any fees?  And what is your percentage?
  • What would you expect from me as a client?
  • If I sign with you, what will happen next?
  • Can I see a copy of your agency agreement?

The last question is of particular importance.  Try to see a copy of the agreement — most agents will happily comply — so you can be sure it’s a contract you want to sign.

What To Consider Next

I'm not sure this agent fits...

Once you’ve spoken to each agent on the phone, now is the time for you to DECIDE.  If there is no obvious choice — someone with whom you instantly connected and without whom the world would be dreary and gray — then now is the time to compare/contrast.  I suggest weighing pros and cons.

For example, if you want minimal agent feedback, and Agent 1 is hands-on while Agent 2 is hands-off, then Agent 2 has +1 pro and Agent 1 has +1 con.

Some aspects to consider (and that work well as pros/cons):

  • Enthusiasm (for your book, for your career)
  • Agency agreement
  • Experience
  • Hands-on/hands-off
  • Age (perhaps you’d rather work with someone close to your own age)
  • Number of clients
  • Editorial vision for your book
  • Career vision for future books
  • Submission plan for this book
  • Phone conversation (too friendly?  too cold?  not professional enough?)
  • Professional organizations

Tally it up, ponder it, dwell, moan, whatever.  Just be sure to have a decision in time to meet your own deadline!

Oh, you have decided already?  You’ve found The One you want representing you and your novel?  Well, in that case, let’s move to the final phase of this process then.

Saying “No”

Because you’ve chosen, you now have to tell all those other sweet agents “no”.  Email is the best way to do this, but it is no easy task because, to put it simply, rejection sucks.  Face it bravely, dear Writer, and if you like, use this template to help guide your words:

Dear<Agent Name>,

Thank you so much for the time and effort you spent considering me as a client.  I appreciate your enthusiasm, and even more, I appreciate your offer of representation.

After much thought, I’ve decided to decline your offer.  I ended up with several offers and was forced to make a choice.  It was an especially difficult decision because <insert something you really liked about the agent>.  I wish you the best with all your future projects, and thanks again for taking the time to consider me.

Best wishes!


And there you have it, folks.  Don’t forget to notify your chosen agent, of course!  They’ll want to know that you’ve selected them, and they’ll want to draw up the needed paperwork quickly.

Now run around and squee your head off, for it’s definitely something you have earned.  Best of luck in your career, Fearless Writer!


Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her manuscript is currently on submission to publishers. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.


18 Responses to “When multiple agents make an offer”

  1. Lindsay November 29, 2010 at 12:34 AM #

    I’ve found these posts really helpful. As much as I try not to get my hopes up too high for THE CALL, I should still be prepared. Thanks for the advice and perspective!

    • sdennard November 29, 2010 at 2:46 AM #

      You *should* be prepared for The Call, Lindsey! One day, I know you’re gonna need this info. 😀

      And while you’re at it, don’t worry about getting your hopes up — DREAM BIG!!!! That’s the best way to get there. 😉

  2. Aurora Blackguard November 29, 2010 at 5:25 AM #

    gawsh!! Now I will never be able to take you seriously. You’ll either sound like that professional voice over dude or Mike Rowe 😀 This was great!

    • sdennard November 29, 2010 at 5:31 AM #

      Haha, Aurora. I’ll have to do a vlog or something, so you can hear me normally! 🙂

      Although Mike Rowe has pretty nice voice… Hmmmm…

  3. Chantal November 29, 2010 at 8:41 AM #

    Really interesting post!!! Will definitely be saving your guidelines on my computer haha 😀

    • sdennard November 29, 2010 at 8:59 AM #

      Yay, Chantal!! I’m glad to hear I could help. 🙂

  4. Sarah J. Maas November 29, 2010 at 6:02 PM #

    I loooove these posts!!!!!!!! As usual, fantastic job!!!!! ❤

    • sdennard November 30, 2010 at 6:16 AM #

      Awww, Sarah, thanks. 🙂

  5. Sammy Bina November 29, 2010 at 8:59 PM #

    This is, like, the best summary ever.

    • sdennard November 30, 2010 at 6:17 AM #

      And you probably know all this stuff from being in the industry, so thanks! I’m glad you think it’s a good summary.

  6. Ashley November 30, 2010 at 4:29 AM #

    This is very helpful Susan, you give great advice! 🙂

    • sdennard November 30, 2010 at 6:16 AM #

      Thanks, Ashley! I hope you can use it. 🙂

  7. SKendall November 30, 2010 at 12:26 PM #

    I tried to read emails after reading this and was still reading in the voice-over voice. That voice gives everything a whole new tone, and it’s an unintentionally hilarious one.

    Great post, and very good advice! Asking about fees is especially important– be wary if you ask agents if they have fees outside of the percentage they take, and they say yes. Check out Predators and Editors for this one if you haven’t already.

  8. Madeleine December 5, 2010 at 12:02 AM #

    Great, great, great info! I hope I have use for it someday… ;D

  9. Lily December 9, 2010 at 2:33 PM #

    LOL. I can just imagine an agent on twitter going, “Did a writer just send ME a form rejection? WTF?” Wonderful post.

  10. cold calling in sydney December 30, 2012 at 6:17 PM #

    I think this is one of the most vital info
    for me. And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The web site style is wonderful, the articles is
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