Ask Daphne! About my multiple submissions

October 6th, 2009 • Kate

feather-shoesSuper fly shoes for Superfly, who’s sent us the following question:

I write middle grade novels and also have written and illustrated a picture book. I have sent queries out to agents for both projects at different times and had some interest. I have a few fulls and partials out for my middle grade right now. Recently, I’ve had some serious interest in my picture book, and an agent is working with me on non-contractual revisions and has asked for an exclusive. I told her that the older version was still out with a couple of agents and that my middle grade novel was out with other agents, too. I told her that, of course, I would give her a first look at the picture book revisions (especially since we are working together on them and I love her ideas). I have sent her my novels, also, so that she can see my entire body of work.

My question is: Do I let the other agents who have my middle grade novel know that I am working on revisions for a DIFFERENT project on an exclusive basis? And, as an agent, wouldn’t this make you less likely to want to waste your time looking at my work (knowing that someone else has first dibs)?

I want to do the right and ethical thing, and I’m just not sure what that is!

So far as I can tell, so far you’ve absolutely done the right and ethical thing. Moving forward, I have a few questions for you. Does the agent who has an exclusive look at your picture book do a lot of middle grade novels as well? To be more clear, if you signed with her for your picture book, would you expect that she would also rep your MG novels? Is that what you want to do, or would you prefer that your novels are with a different agent than your picture book(s)?

At this point, with no offers as yet made, I don’t think you have any obligation to the other agents considering your work. When should you tell them something? When the agent exclusively considering your PB makes you an offer of representation, then I would contact all of the other agents who currently have your work, let them know you have an offer, and ask for their decision within a fair amount of time — a week or two, usually.

You’ll be asking them to make a decision based on the material they have — the revised picture book is still the PB agent’s exclusive, so they’d need to see the germ of what that agent saw, and be willing to offer first, and know that there’s a tighter, more polished version that would be available, if they took a chance and offered representation.

I can see another possibility as well — someone might love your middle grade novel, and want to represent you on that. Then you do the same thing — inform all the other agents that you have an offer, including the one looking at the PB exclusively (although I would be sure and let her know that the offer is based on a review of your novel, not PB), and give them time to respond.

It’s complicated — which is why I usually recommend that you focus on one project at a time, at least in terms of querying. You should absolutely be writing something else while you query — I mean, you need something to do to take your mind off waiting from response emails from agents — but having a lot out there at once makes things complicated.

Does that help? Readers, have you ever been in a similar situation? Do you want one agent to handle all your work, or multiple agents to handle different projects in different genres or age ranges?

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3 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About my multiple submissions”

  1. Paul Greci Says:

    I was in a similar situation about a year ago. I had two manuscripts under consideration, each with several agents. At the time I thought it was a good move to put both manuscripts out there since I thought they were both ready. One agent requested a revision. And then I got more requests for that book. It got a little confusing. There were so many what-if scenarios. If an agent offers on one book then what do you tell the other agents. Do you then let them see that book? Fortunately or unfortunately no one offered representation.

    I revised both books, again thought they were both ready, but this time I just queried one of them. I received several offers of representation and was happy to be able to have the same conversation with each agent before accepting the offer I thought was best for me, instead of having to juggle multiple projects.

    So, if at all possible I would recommend querying one project at a time. And while you are doing that, revise the other one and/or start something new. And, if possible find one agent who represents the different genres you write in. I know some people do have more than one agent but ideally you just want one for all your books. I'm no expert–these are just thoughts from someone who did the query dance and ended up with an agent that I am very happy with.

  2. Jennifer Swanson Says:

    Great info! I am both a pb and mg writer and wasn't sure how to approach this. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Super Fly Says:

    So helpful! Thank you so much. I feel much better about how I'm proceeding.

    I have been trying to keep my focus on agents who handle both picture books and middle grade because I would rather have one agent for my entire body of work. I queried different agents with different projects because different people tend to lean toward one or the other (although they handle both). In retrospect, maybe not the best approach.