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I love blogging, but unfortunately, this month is a little psychotic in the World of Dahlia, so even while topics I want to blog about pile up, unfortunately I have no time to actually write about them. BUT, because I’ve noticed that I get a few of the same questions very frequently via DM/e-mail, I wanted to throw out a little FAQ until I get some more time to blog at greater length.

The number one question I get lately is this Q: I got an offer from a small press during a contest, but I’m trying to get an agent. What do I do?

A: Now, ultimately, this is up to you, and I can’t answer it for you (though one of my next blog posts will be about choosing your pub path), but here’s what I think it’s important to consider when answering that question for yourself:

1) Is this a deal you want? (Which means look into this press and find out your contract terms) And in a related question,

2) If your agent got you this deal, would you be happy with it?

Because that’s the key – the deal, and its terms, and what it means for you. Forget the agent part for a minute, and imagine that this press is your book’s final stop. (And yes, plenty of agent deals do end up at small presses.) Are you happy with that?

Because if the answer is no (and here I’d advise looking at Ellie’s comments below, though I will address this at much greater length when I write my post on pub choices), then you’re probably taking this deal because you’re giving up. And if an editor wants you, why would you assume an agent wouldn’t? Why are you thinking about settling for less than what you want?

But if the answer is yes, then you need to assess why it is that you still want an agent for this book. And that’s the question I think you need to ask yourself to figure out the answer to exactly which way you should go.

Of course, there are more factors, one of the strongest being honestly asking yourself how likely you are to get an agent and a traditional pub deal with this book (factoring in things like genre and marketability, not just your writing skill). But if you’re trying to streamline your thinking, that’s how my personal thought process would go.

Q: Can I submit more than one manuscript to a contest/pitch more than one ms in PitMad/query more than one ms at a time?

A: Can you? Technically, yes, unless it’s explicitly against the rules of whom/whatever you’re pitching to. Should you? My recommendation is no (unless there are special circumstances, e.g. one is Adult and one is Kidlit and you’re pitching agents who don’t rep both), for the simple reason that when you get an offer, this can become really complicated.

Part of The Call is having the conversation about what else you’re working on, and when you have that call, you can talk about your other finished, polished ms that you love and would like to be considered. You can even make it a personal dealbreaker for you that you will only accept the offer of an agent who will take on both. But having one agent who wants to rep one work and another who wants to rep a different work, and one or both agency contracts stipulating that all your work is theirs….

Like I said, complicated.

So, stick with your strongest, the one you think is the most publishable, the one you absolutely need an agent to take on. And good luck!

Q: An agent requested from a contest, but I already have a query/material with another agent there.

A: This happens. It’s not your fault; obviously you were aiming for other agents at the same time, and there’s no way for either of you to know. Just tell the requesting agent. Either (s)he’ll say “That’s OK, send it anyway,” or “Send it if (s)he passes” or “Oh well,” or whatever. But honesty? Always the best policy. Really.

Q: I want to split from my agent; how do I do this?

A: Agency contracts are blissfully not that long – study the hell out of yours. Every agency contract has an exit clause, and you are going to want to follow that clause to the freaking letter. Be prepared to put the fact that you want to split and your reason why in writing, and make sure you understand at what point your work reverts to being yours again. You’re going to want to be very careful when querying that you’re not submitting work that still belongs to your agency for another 30 days, for example, or that if you are, you know and communicate to your future agent when the work is yours. If you’re querying work that was previously represented, you must tell potential new agents whether or not is has already gone out on submission. You also must know where it has gone on submission, which brings me to a major point:

Always make sure you leave an agent with a sub list in hand.
Hound your soon-to-be ex-agent if you have to, but if you have gone out on submission with a manuscript, and you do not know where, you will very likely not be able to go out on sub with it again. (This is a massive reason you will want to talk to clients of every agent who offers, by the way – ensure that providing a sub list is something your possible future agent does if not regularly then at least upon request.)


So, that’s some of what’s been in my inbox lately. Remember that all of those answers are my opinion, and I’m sure others’ differ. Ultimately, you can only do what’s right for you, but hopefully my thoughts will help you figure out what that is!