What to do when an editor shows interest and other editors have the proposal

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

This blog is in answer to a question we received from Kristen in Washington.

She asks: “Let’s suppose that three editors request a proposal at a writers conference. What in the world does a writer do if one of them actually wants a full or wants to publish the book?  What is the proper protocol when you don’t have an agent?”

Great question, Kristen! Thank you.

Here is my suggestion: If one of the editors requests a full manuscript or informs you that the book proposal is going to committee, send an email to the other two editors letting them know that there is further interest in the project from a different publishing house.  Go ahead and use the new interest as an opportunity to ask if they’ve taken a look at the book yet and to ask if they’d like to see any additional material from you.

Also, it’s best not to tell editors who is interested. They don’t need to know who else is considering the project. That just gives them the chance to discount other interest because the house is smaller or to bow out without fully considering the book if they think that publisher could offer more money than they could.

If you actually receive an offer on the project, let the other two editors know that you have an offer on the table and that you would like to hear from them as soon as possible. Giving a time frame for a response is a good idea–two weeks is a good amount of time. Then let the publisher who made the offer know that you are thankful for their offer, but that you need a couple of weeks to hopefully find an agent before agreeing to anything. (See this post for more info about finding an agent after receiving an offer.) You don’t even need to mention that you are waiting for other publishers to respond, but it wouldn’t hurt as long as you’ve been up front with the fact that other houses are looking at the project from the beginning.

Keep in mind this is a great time to obtain an agent. That would relieve you of all the delicate maneuvering.

I hope this information is helpful to all of you who are submitting directly to editors through connections made at conferences.

Any further questions or comments on this subject?

Have any of you run into this situation before? How did you handle it?

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22 Comments

  • Anne Love says:

    Great advice Rachel. Thanks.

  • Jeanne T says:

    Thanks for this advice, Rachel. It makes a lot of sense. I have a couple of questions. First of all, is an agent more likely to take you on as a client if there is an offer from an agent on your project?

    I always appreciate the perspective you ladies share that helps in decision making in this publishing industry. :)

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Do you mean “an offer from a publisher”? Yes, that does usually make it easier. It takes out the guessing game of whether or not an agent will be able to place a debut project.

  • Thanks for the advice, Rachel! I’m personally hoping to have an agent first, to help me maneuver these types of situations. However, I know it doesn’t always happen that way, and I appreciate getting an agent’s perspective on how to handle this. :)

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks for the great advice. (It makes me nervous :) I can only pray I have an agent first!)

  • Excellent advice, Rachel. I ran into a similiar situation with one book. I had pitched it to a publisher and an agent at an online writers conference. I was waiting to hear back from the agent when an offer came in from the publisher. I emailed the agent and mentioned the offer. She never responded, and I ended up accepting the publisher’s offer a few weeks later.

    I’m not sure it was the right choice. Maybe I should have declined and continued seeking representation. But it’s a choice I was comfortable with. I probably wouldn’t do it again. Representation is where my heart lies, so I want my focus to remain there and to pursue it fully.

  • Wouldn’t be a bad problem to have! Thanks for the great suggestions, Rachel.

  • Jenny Leo says:

    This situation falls under “Problems I’d love to have”! Sound advice to hold onto should I ever need it.

  • Larry says:

    In situations like this, would it not be more prudent to find a lawyer who specializes in this field?

    If the role of the agent is primarily to find a publisher, and one has already found editors interested in the book, and they have made an offer, what is left except to find someone who can gurantee that the author can get the most out of their publishing agreement? Not to say that agents do not have the best interests of their clients, but there is always that strange grey area where agents repeatedly state that they work for both their client and the publisher: and there are a few top-notch agents who have stated in their advice to authors to have both an agent and a lawyer who specializes in the field, or if they have an offer, to simply get a lawyer for negotiations and not an agent, so it is all something to consider when one gets different perspectives.

    Of course, there is always the question of having an agent to help one decide the course of ones’ career, and not a single book: but like with most aspects of the industry these days, it seems it ultimately comes down to how comfortable each individual author is with deciding how best to pursue their career after educating themselves on the current and evolving state of the industry and industry practices.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Placing a book is only part of my job, Larry. I also provide career management and negotiate contracts. I work on behalf of my client to help them have the best relationship with the publishing house. I’m always available for my clients if they have questions or need direction.

      Agenting is MUCH more than just selling books. :)

      • Jan Thompson says:

        Thank you. I knew agents do more than connect with publishers on behalf of the authors, but it’s good to know that you also provide career management even though I get it that the authors have to be pro-active regarding their own careers.

        I think it’s a neat team to have – the author, agent, publisher relationships.

      • Larry says:

        Indeed, and I sincerely hope that I did not come across as stating that all agents did was place books with publishers. I did not intend to say as such, which is why I mentioned how:

        “Of course, there is always the question of having an agent to help one decide the course of ones’ career”, and not just get the maximum return from selling a single book.

        Though I also wanted to present to any who were curious about this type of scenario more possible ways to consider approaching it, including ways other agents have addressed such a scenario.

        Didn’t mean to offend, just to offer some different perspectives to consider. Not only are there different ways to approach the scenario, but different types of writers who might find themselves in such a scenario. For example, one who wrote a book as a hobby, and doesn’t intend to have a literary career and might be more interested in being able to maximize their return on that book. Or a writer who goes the self-pub route: if they get offers for a book by traditional publishers, would they need or want an agent? It might not speak best of the author, but if they felt spurned by the traditional publishing industry, they might not want someone advocating on their behalf who feels they represent both the author and the publisher, for example.

        Which is why I concluded with how it:

        “ultimately comes down to how comfortable each individual author is with deciding how best to pursue their career after educating themselves on the current and evolving state of the industry and industry practices.”

      • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

        Not offended at all! Sorry to have sounded like it in my reply if I did. I am working from my phone today because my Internet is out so my answers are more brief than I would like.

        Yes, each author must consider what is best for their career. And there are more options out there than just my suggestion.

        I very much appreciate your comments!

  • You just answered a handful of questions that recently came up for me. Thanks for posting!

  • I had two publishing houses ask for my manuscript at a conference and this is a question I have. Thanks for clarifying. When they both asked for it (one a partial and one a full) the first question both of them asked me is if I had an agent. In my opinion, it would be much easier to navigate these waters with an agent’s help! I’ve had so many questions since the conference that only an agent could answer for me. Thanks for the sound advice and wisdom, Rachel!

  • BIDDING WAR! Every author’s dream! And yes, I confess, I have prayed for this scenario to happen to me someday! Thanks for answering this interesting question today, Rachel!

  • Common sense “always prevails” is what my Mom taught me. Very often, I get more than one person asking to walk me to the park at the same time. Of course I am flattered and I know somebody’s heart will be broken with my choices but doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.
    Bye. Be kind and share with others.

  • Thanks for all the great advice, Rachel. I am praying for an agent first! All this intrigue is a bit overwhelming.

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