When Multiple Agents Are Interested

A writer asked:
If there are two or more agents interested in representing me, how do I make my decision? I’ve heard it can be better in some cases for a less established author to go with a younger or newer agent — is this true? What other factors would you consider?

If there are two or more agents interested in your work, you have a pretty good problem on your hands! You should approach this the way you’d approach any situation in which you’re going to “hire” someone. Let them know that you’re deciding between two or more agents. Then find out everything you can about each candidate and decide who seems like a better fit.

First, a Conversation
It starts with talking to each of them on the phone. You’ll definitely want one or two calls in which you can chat, ask questions, and get a general feel for who they are and how they communicate. Find out how they work, who they’d expect to be pitching your project to, and how close they think your manuscript is to being ready to submit. Get a feel for the other clients they represent and what kind of a track record they have for selling books to legitimate publishers. (You may want to read my posts “Getting the Call” and “Questions to Ask an Agent.”)

Check ‘em Out
You’ll also want to do your due diligence in finding out whatever else you can. Read their blogs, websites and Twitter feeds; Google their names to find online interviews or articles; check Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors to make sure there are no red flags. If you have access to Publishers Marketplace, look the agents up to see what kind of deals they’ve done recently.

Got References?
Some people even like to “check references” by talking to some of the agent’s current clients. Many authors have blogs/websites with contact information and you can write them asking if they’d mind being a reference for the agent.

Newer Isn’t Always Better
Some people advise that a younger or newer agent might be a better fit for a new author, and this can be true, but I don’t think you can make your decision based on a generality like this. Try to choose the person who is the best fit for you.

Don’t Rush
While you may be excited and want to make your decision quickly, I recommend you take your time and do as much investigating as necessary first. You should be able to find out everything you need to know within a few days… then put those agents out of their misery and tell them your decision!

© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

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  • Aimee L Salter

    >Rachelle: If it's applicable, would it be suitable to ask for a sample of their editorial notes?

    I signed with a newish agent (someone returning to the game) because they were so passionate about my stuff and their editorial skills were superb.

    But I also had an established relationship with the person, so knew how they worked and whether their style of editing, etc, suited mine.

    I know some authors who've really struggled not on a personality level, but in finding the way their new agent either communicates editorial notes, or WHAT their agent suggests for changes. I would hate to be in that position…

  • Melissa Jagears

    >Rachelle, you linked to your post
    "Getting The Call" which answered a question I had (thanks), but gave me another. You wrote:

    "I'll make sure I'm clear on the status of the manuscript in terms of who's seen it, especially if it's been shown to any publishers. (I desperately hope not.)"

    How does that relate to contest final wins? Let's say I finaled in a contest and a Bethany or Thomas Nelson editor saw the manuscript because it was a finalist–Does this count as something you desperately hoped had not happened?

    Or are you only speaking about having a Bethany or Thomas Nelson editor putting it through for possible publication and then rejecting it?

  • Rachelle

    >Aimee–you could certainly ask if they have any editorial thoughts they can share, and how extensive they think the editing will be.

    Melissa–the contest situation is common and it's not a problem. What we hate is when we love a manuscript only to find it's been shopped and rejected widely, making it a tough or impossible sell.

  • Adam Heine

    >Is it considered professional to ask the agents to duke it out in a cage fight? Not to the death, or anything. Just enough to determine who would be best to have on your side in the case of a zombie apocalypse.

    Just curious ;-)

  • Talei

    >Oh, that would be a wonderful problem to have. Interesting, I have heard that Newer Agents are generally considered easier to sign with as they are looking to build a client base. I like hearing your point of view, great advice, thank you!

  • otin

    >I would be happy with just one! LOL

  • Lance Albury

    >The way I see it, at least at the beginning of the journey, I'm only soliciting reputable agents on whom I've done much homework already.

    The main thing I'd want clarity on is that agent's communication protocol.

  • Erin MacPherson

    >That WOULD be a good problem to have. These are great tips…thanks Rachelle!

  • Wendy Paine Miller

    >Beautiful problem.

    Helpful advice. Thank you.
    ~ Wendy

  • Roberta Walker

    >Thank you! I hope to go back and read your post again when I'm deliberating this exact problem :)

  • Melissa K Norris

    >If an agent said they were going to pitch your book, but didn't officially sign you as a client, and it's been six months since you heard anything, what would you suggest? I have sent three low key requests and have not heard a word. I'd like to keep things professional, but I'm not sure where I stand or what would be appropriate on my end. This may be normal. As you can tell, I'm still new to this game. :)
    Thanks for any advice, Rachel.

  • Wendy

    >What a lovely problem! Great and practical advice. I can only hope I have to use it someday!
    ~Wendy

  • Melissa Jagears

    >Thanks for answering my question, Rachelle!

  • Tana Adams

    >Many, many, moons ago when I had this problem there was no internet or guidance on how to best solve the situation. Of course I went at it all wrong and it ended badly. Today, with the wealth of knowledge from sources such as yourself, writers are without excuse. Thank you for sharing so freely with writers! We appreciate all of your advice.

  • Anita Saxena

    >Thank you for the advice and if I'm ever lucky enough to be in this situation I will know what to do!

  • Jean Ann Williams

    >Thank you for answering a few questions for me.

  • Rick Barry

    >Now this was one question that I've never had to ask! The one and only agent whom I've ever contracted wouldn't answer her phone or emails for weeks. I was seriously afraid she died, so I did a Google search and learned she was under investigation for possible unethical practices. I ended that contract. Since then, I've sold two books without an agent, but am tired of that kind of footwork. Simply too time-consuming for someone not in daily touch with the market. Hoping to go agented when my current WIP is ready.

  • Martha Ramirez

    >Rachelle, very awesome post. Thanks so much for taking the time to write.
    I've heard mixed things about signing on with a new agent. This helps :)
    Thanks!

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