Holly Root, filling in for Barbara Poelle
As you may know, your usual Tuesday hilarity-and-questionable-intern-employing-advicebringer has finally had enough of the madding crowds of August in New York, and has decamped to cooler climes where the vodka runs free and fast as a 5k.
And so, my phone rings.
Now, compared to the usual tasks that lurk on the other end of an incoming call from 212-UPP-YOURS (I tried to discourage the vanity line, but even I am only so powerful), this one seemed eminently doable.
"Help ‘em out," a voice slurred. "And don't be lame."
Little did she know I had been perched in wait for such a time as this. For you see, gentle readers, Death Kittens excel in two things: biding their time, and always being right.
So I come to you today bearing wise counsel on an issue I shall call The Sticky Wicket. (Coincidentally, also the name of the band Her Slitheriness and I play in on the weekends, but that's neither here nor there.)
Sticky Wicket: Oh bleep! I have an offer! What do I do now?
Here is what you do not do, authorfriends: Scream "Yes!"
The DK has seen this sad scenario play out oh-so-many times. A writer has gotten the opportunity to submit a manuscript to a publisher. Now, many houses will not offer--they will instead encourage the author to obtain an agent, even making some referrals to aid in the process. But let's say this house will offer to an unagented author. So the offer comes in, the author notifies the agents s/he has submitted to, and then less than 24 hours later, before having heard from any of the agents but having worked themselves into a Grade-A lather, the author accepts the offer as-given, certain that the editor will withdraw it otherwise.
No me gusta, authorfriends. For one thing: If they liked it enough to offer, they like it enough for you to consider your next appropriate business decision. For another: If they liked it enough to offer, even if they did back out, someone else might be interested too. And for a third: No good decisions are made out of panic.
The right thing to do is let the agents who are considering know there is an offer, and tell the offering editor that you are looking into lining up an agent. Suggest a date by which you will respond, and then sit on your hands lest you undermine your future success. Use that time to consider your options should you not obtain an agent, and perhaps take up knitting.
This Sticky can also happen when you are agent-hunting and someone calls to invite you aboard the S.S. Agented. Now, if you have done your homework, and after you speak this agent pushes all your yes-buttons and you are very sure, it is acceptable to just withdraw other submissions, particularly if I am on the other end of the phone.
But you are 100% entitled, yea verily encouraged, to sleep on it and/or notify the other people considering your work. Unfortunately, some agents practice the "hard sell" and will say "Why would you need to talk to anyone else?" or "If you can't say yes right now, you're not client material" or other such emotionally-charged things.
Je n'aime, authorfriends. Is this someone you want advising your career? Even if you only receive one offer of representation, there is no law saying you must accept. Unagented is better than poorly agented. Perhaps the agent who offered is not a good fit for you, or does not have enough experience and/or oversight to make you feel comfortable. You are in the driver's seat. You are the talent. Anyone who seeks to make you feel threatened or disempowered stinks like last week's litter.
And if they question, you may say the Death Kitten told you so.