Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Good Idea/Bad Idea

Yesterday morning, agent Janet Reid posted some very pertinent advice on her Tuesday Morning Question Emporium. If an author receives an offer from a small publisher, Janet was asked, should the offer notify the agent to whom a query has been submitted?

Well, yes. Etiquette says this is a nice thing to do. Read her blog for more details on when, how, and why.

But when you do, don't hold your manuscript hostage. Let's play a game of good idea, bad idea on how you should word your query.

Good Idea agent e-mail: Be polite, mention time frame, leave the agent room to say yes

Subject: (agent's requested subject line)-Publishing Offer
Dear (actual name of agent),
I recently sent you a query for (name of manuscript), but have recently received an offer from Small Publish Publishing Shack. I requested a week to consider their offer while I waited for your response, and would appreciate it if you got back to me within 7 days. For your convenience, I have included my original query here.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Your Real Name, writing as Your Pen Name

Bad Idea agent e-mail: Demand a response NOW. Threaten to take the story hostage.

Howdy Agent,
I recently sent you a query for MY MOST AWESOME STORY EVER. I'll give you a minute to go find it.
Isn't it great? Anyway, I just got an offer from a small publisher. You have 3 days to get back to me, or I'm rewriting the plot from the perspective from the family dog. And if you don't get back in 5 days, I'll kill the dog at the end of the book. If you don't get back in 7 days, you'll have lost your chance to work with this soon-to-be best-seller. 
Keep it real,
Toma Toplant

In general, do try not to alienate a member of your own professional community.

(And yes, the purpose of this blog was an excuse to write a "bad idea agent e-mail.")


  1. Haha but that "bad idea agent e-mail" was rather hilarious.

    So, does the same apply if you're made an offer from a few different agents/publishing houses without even sending in your work? (I'm still learning)


    1. If you get an offer without the publishing house having ever seen it, BEWARE! It's probably a vanity publisher that wants you to pay to be published. If you're writing nonfiction and have a big platform and made a name for yourself in the field, then you may be okay, but anything fiction, never accept an offer from a house that hasn't even read what you wrote.

      But, if an agent wants your work at the same time after having read your manuscript, but you're still waiting on a reply from another, you can politely ask for a couple of days to make up your mind and send an e-mail to the other agent that you've got another offer. If you're sending to a few agents at once (I've heard the rule never more than five at a time), though, it's best that you have the same level of interest in all them. After accepting one, let the others know you're going with someone else, so as not to waste their time.