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View Full Version : Do agents shop mss. before offering representation?



yeswecan
02-25-2009, 10:55 PM
QUESTION: I've heard that some agents "shop around" a ms. or at least discuss it with editor friends before making a final deciison. If this is true, how common or likely is it?

I've read blogs where agents say they're considering who they can sell a ms. to while they're reading it, so to me it makes sense if they want to test the market in advance. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Leukman
02-26-2009, 12:00 AM
I'd guess it's only likely if said agent has a Batline to said editor, and a friendly enough relationship that they can toss ideas around before any "formal proceedings."

Otherwise, agents are submitting to editors just as we do to them, so the chances of them being able to shop around the ms seems pretty slim.

Mayhaps there's a handful of uber-agents than can do this, but I doubt it's common practice. IMHO

victoriastrauss
02-26-2009, 01:12 AM
Otherwise, agents are submitting to editors just as we do to them, so the chances of them being able to shop around the ms seems pretty slim.

The difference is that agents tend to know the editors they pitch to, either professionally or by reputation--often, because they've sold to those editors before. If agents submitted to editors just as authors submitted to agents, you wouldn't really need an agent. A large part of an agent's value to an author is the agent's insider connections and knowledge.

Agents take on work they think they can sell, which means that they have to be thinking about which editors to approach while they're deciding whether or not to extend a representation offer. It makes sense that the agent might sometimes pitch an editor or two s/he thought could be right for a particular ms. before making a contract offer, to get an idea of the editors' responses and confirm her feeling that the ms. is marketable.

You don't want an agent to send your ms. round without actually having a representation agreement in hand, though. I've heard of a couple of situations where an agent did this to test the waters, and then rejected the writer when no one was prepared to make an offer. That's a horrible situation; without ever actually being represented, many of that writer's submission opportunities were eliminated.

- Victoria

Leukman
02-26-2009, 01:18 AM
You don't want an agent to send your ms. round without actually having a representation agreement in hand, though. I've heard of a couple of situations where an agent did this to test the waters, and then rejected the writer when no one was prepared to make an offer. That's a horrible situation; without ever actually being represented, many of that writer's submission opportunities were eliminated.

That's a scary thought.

There must be some legal reprecussions for such actions?

priceless1
02-26-2009, 02:37 AM
QUESTION: I've heard that some agents "shop around" a ms. or at least discuss it with editor friends before making a final deciison. If this is true, how common or likely is it?

I've read blogs where agents say they're considering who they can sell a ms. to while they're reading it, so to me it makes sense if they want to test the market in advance. Any thoughts? Thanks!
Yes, this happens all the time, though the agent has always signed the author. I've never heard of it being done as a fishing expedtion That's why agents are your and our best friends. They vet the authors and their work, which makes my life worth living, and they can get your work looked at far easier than an author can do on their own. I have a number of agents who simply call me up on the phone and pitch over a friendly conversation.

Conversely, I've had author friends have deals offered to them from editors (I'm talking very solid deals) and they call me asking for advice, which always, "get thee to an agent, and here, I happen to have a few in my left pocket."

victoriastrauss
02-26-2009, 03:04 AM
That's a scary thought.

There must be some legal reprecussions for such actions?

Well, it's bad faith, but not illegal. However, I think that anything like this is really, really unusual--not something that agents are likely to do, but rather something that a couple of agents happened to do. Definitely not something that needs to be uppermost in anyone's mind in terms of worry. Although if you hang around this biz long enough, you'll realize that almost anything can happen, both bad and good.

- Victoria

yeswecan
02-26-2009, 05:42 AM
Thanks, Victoria and priceless1! Seems to make sense that agents might want to test the waters, maybe not mention a specific ms. or writer but try to pick the editor's brain in a vague way, esp if s/he is someone they know and trust and the ms. is a bit different or unusual. I think it'd be hard not to talk shop and discuss incoming mss. or queries when agents and editors meet, esp if they're friends.

While you're here, would you suggest bypassing the asst. and going directly to the agent to status query? Thanks again!

victoriastrauss
02-26-2009, 07:29 PM
I'd follow up with whoever you initially had contact with.

- Victoria