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  1. #1
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    Question Weird "Offer" from Reputable Agent

    I ran into a strange situation with an agent, and I'm not sure how to proceed.

    An agent that I contacted asked if he could send my memoir to a publisher who he thinks might be interested in it, and if they give him an offer, he'll then send it to other publishers with the offer in hand - without a written contract. I replied to his email, asking what his standard commission was (15%), and asking if he would continue to sub my ms. if the first publisher did not offer....and he said "maybe."

    I asked if I might have 2 weeks to consider this and to contact other agents that might be interested in my work, and he said "of course."

    I read through his thread on another writer's forum, and I did see that he used to do this sort of thing without even asking the client first, so I thought it was nice that he asked me first. Other than that, he checks out. He seems to have a ton of sales, he's listed as "recommended" on Preditors & Editors, and the agency appears solid from everything else I've read about them, which is why I queried him in the first place.

    But I'm leaning towards telling him "no thanks," mostly because of the vague offer, and because I worry that if he sends my work to this publisher and they say no, and then he drops me, that it will count against me with the next group of agents I query.

    Yet there's also that small part of me that thinks, "What if?" After all, he does have a ton of sales and knows of a publisher he feels might be interested in my work.

    I also wasn't sure how to handle the other agents I've already sent my work to, some of which I would love to work with as well.

    Would it be appropriate for me to contact the other agents to let them know I have an offer? I hesitate because I'm not even sure if this constitute "an offer," and I certainly don't want to come across as being dishonest by saying I have an offer, if it isn't one.

    Moreover, I'd hate to rush them into a "no," but if I do decide to go ahead and let this first agent have a crack at it, I'd also hate to miss an opportunity to work with someone who might be more enthusiastic about my work, or who has more than one place in mind to send it to.

    What would any of you do in my situation?

  2. #2
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    I would back away myself. There are reasons people don't want to put things in writing, and nearly all of them indicate types of people you DON'T want in your life. I suppose he could be essentially a good guy who just likes to operate fast and loose, but I don't like that type of person myself, at least as far as business is concerned. Either the guy wants to be your agent or not; ask him to make up his mind, and get it in writing. If he says no, consider it a bullet dodged, and find someone willing to commit.

    Don't say you have an offer when you don't. An offer is a contract in your hand that lacks only your signature, and nothing else. Be as honest and truthful as you want others to be with you.

    I suspect you already knew all this. Sometimes we need a little nudge to listen to that still small voice in the back of our heads. Consider yourself nudged.
    Last edited by John Oberon; 08-07-2014 at 04:33 AM.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the nudge. That voice in the back of my head telling me that this is not an official offer is why I'm here rather than sending out offer letters to agents. I guess my main concern is I am actually still considering this agents "offer," or whatever it actually is, because of the reasons outlined above, and I don't think the other agents considering my work would appreciate it if I did so without any word at all. I do have a full out, and a few recent queries to agents that ask to be told if there is an offer on the table.

    I was actually drafting an email last night that said I have an "informal offer" and then explained exactly what that offer was. So if I do decide to contact the other agents, they can decide for themselves what this is. BUT....still not even sure if I'll bother sending it out.

    I've already lost two days of my "two weeks to decide" so I'd better make up my mind soon, huh?

  4. #4
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Yep. For me, it's not much of a decision - I like things black and white, up front and clear. I don't like doubt or worry, so I try to eliminate it as much as possible from my life.

    So what kind of life have you lived that a publisher would consider buying your memoir?

  5. #5
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    Publishing contracts have a section commonly called the "agency clause"; that's what governs the relation between the writer and agent, specifying commission, payment, etc. It seniors any prior agreementówritten or verbalóbetween the writer and agent.

    Back in the day, agents and writers dealt on a handshake basis, knowing that any publishing contract they landed would legally bind them for that particular work. Written agreements are fairly recent. From what you say, your guy is legitimate; he just may be old-school.

    How you proceed vis-a-vis the other agents you're dealing with, I won't comment. However, I wouldn't jettison the current offer simply because it's not in writing.

  6. #6
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    John and jayce....thank you both for weighing in. Since I am still considering this agent's offer, I did go ahead and contact the agent who has the full, and I explained exactly what type of "offer" was on the table so there is no question in my mind or hers. I'm still on the fence about bothering with the ones I only queried, but I will probably at least contact the few who have auto replies that request that authors do so, and I will be just as forthright with them as I was with the first.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Oberon View Post

    So what kind of life have you lived that a publisher would consider buying your memoir?
    The memoir is a humorous account of my botched attempt to train one of my crazy rescued dogs to do therapy work. So I guess it is more about how my dog has lived his life, than me.

  7. #7
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    Just wanted to pop back on here and let you all know how this turned out. I did nudge several agents while I was making my decision, and it ended up in a lot of rejections, including one from my dream agent, who requested the manuscript but ended up rejecting because she had too much on her plate right now. That one really stung, but I guess you live, learn, and move on. In the end, although I seriously considered this agent's offer, I decided not to go with him and wrote to him today to let him know. It was a really tough decision, but several people, including two agents, advised me that it was in my best interest to hold out for another agent who is more invested in my career and not just the one book, and that's what I'm going to do.

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