if it’s too difficult for grown-ups, write for children

Ask Daphne! About bringing in an agent

Double L writes:

I made contact with an editor a few years back at a conference and have shared manuscripts and swapped emails with her since then. She recently wrote to tell me she loved my current manuscript and was sharing it with her colleagues. I know that isn’t the same as “I’m taking it to acquisitions” or “Please let me buy your book!” BUT I’ve also sent this story out to agents. Is this something I should share with them now or do I wait until I have an offer? How much information do agents want concerning the manuscript’s status and at what point do they want it?

LL — first of all, congrats! How the tough part starts. It’s true, you don’t have an offer in hand, but at such time as you might have an offer, there’s a chance the editor won’t want to wait too long to get your response. So there’s an element of “striking while the iron is hot” to play with.
If the material is also out with several agents — and by that I mean in either partial of full drafts, not just a query — then I would think you could send them a note to just say, “Dear Agent — While you’re reading my submission of X, I just wanted to let you know that Editor Q at Publishing House Y recently informed me that she’s sharing the material with her colleagues. While I recognize that this isn’t an offer, I wanted you to be aware of the news. I look forward to hearing your reaction.”
For those agents whom you’ve queried but who haven’t yet responded to ask for material, do nothing for now. If they write and ask for a partial, I’d let them know then that Editor Q at Publishing House Y is seriously considering it, and that you’ll like to keep them apprised of her reaction.
Now here’s where I tell you a little secret — sometimes (not always, but SOMETIMES) if I know an author whose material I haven’t gotten to yet has an offer, or other interest, I may be more inclined to pass rather than read more. This is more true if we’re talking about interest from another agent, but it’s occasionally applicable with an offer from a publishing house. There’s that sense of rushing to respond which doesn’t really give me the chance to sit with something, let it gestate in my brain, and see if I really want to spend the next couple of years dealing with the author.
Now, say things DO happen quickly, and Editor Q does make an offer, before you get an agent on board. What you want to do then is let her know that several agents are considering the work, ask when she needs to have your response, and then send another note to the agents. You may also want to consider asking the editor if she has any recommendations of agents — likely she will know someone she enjoys working with, and you might be able to garner a quick response if the referral comes from an editor.
It’s not a slam dunk easy process, and there’s reasons why you may not want an agent who’s ONLY coming on board because you have an offer, so make sure you’ve done your research. In all things, though, communication is key. Good luck!