"Can I get back to you on that?"
I KNOW. Even my mother said, "You told her what?" and seriously, it was one of the hardest things I ever had to say, ever. Here was an agent holding open the door to my dream, and me asking for more time. And I liked the agent, quite a bit. I didn't say it because I wanted to dangle her offer in front of other agents and see how many would bite. I said it because that moment was so important, and it was everything I'd worked for for two and a half years, and I didn't want to dive in heart-first. This would be the one chance I had to interview the person who could be representing me for life.
I'm not going to tell you that's definitely how you should do it, because there are plenty of people who said "YES!" to their first offer and have wonderful relationships with their awesome agents and things worked out just fine. (But I will say that you can always tell First Offering Agent "YES!" if you get to the end of the week and she's still your favorite.) Instead, I thought I'd gather a few observations from that week:
- It's a bit stressful. Have chocolate at the ready. Every offer opens a new path for your career and every agent is going to be passionate about your work, complimentary, and eager to hear a "yes" from you. It can be confusing, especially if you have offers from agents at similar agencies. You're going to be thinking in a lot of What Ifs.
- Keep your poker face on. Ask all your questions. Follow up on all references. Don't hint to the agent that she has nothing to worry about or that she has no chance. You might have a change of heart after another call or after checking with her references. Just say Thank You and I'll Be In Touch. You can gush later when you're accepting her offer.
- Be prepared at all times. Usually an agent will email first to set up The Call, but sometimes she will call as soon as she's finished reading. I kept my interview questions on my Gmail account so I could access them from any computer or from my phone if I needed to.
- The agent isn't going to tell you all her revision ideas. This one I found a little hard to swallow, even though it makes complete sense. On one hand, an agent doesn't want to spill all her great ideas just to have you steal them and run off with another agent. On the other hand, how could I know the agent and I shared the same vision for the book without knowing everything she wanted to change? But the agent should be willing to share her Big Ideas with you: the overarching things she'd like you to revise. From there you'll have to go with your gut.
- Writing rejection letters sucks. This was my least favorite part. I knew how it felt to receive such letters, and all the agents I'd talked to were so lovely, I hated to think of them seeing that email and knowing what it meant. I kept my letters brief and complimentary. One tip: include the name of the agent you signed with in your email. All the agents replied to ask.
- You will get responses to your rejection letters. In most cases, it will be a short-n-sweet "Sad we won't be working together, but good luck to you!" - but the agent might also ask you to elaborate on why you chose someone else.
AgentQuery has some great information about offer etiquette, including how to nudge agents and what questions to ask on The Call. It was my bible during that very exciting week. Good luck to you, and I hope this helps you during your Exciting Week!
Stay tuned for the first "After The Agent" series post to come: The Eye Of The Storm