When Someone You Love Gets an Agent

Congratulations! You’ve braved the highs and lows of your friend writing a book. You’ve watched them bounce from the despair of rejection to the excitement of a full request while querying, and now all of that encouraging, cheerleading, and patience has paid off!

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Your friend just came to you and said they have an offer! Let’s talk about what that means.

An offer is when an agent reads a writer’s book, falls in love, and says, “I have to represent this.” They then offer the author representation, (i.e. They take the book to all the big publishing houses in hopes that it will sell and they’ll get a 15% cut.)

There’s a bit of a process after this.

First, your friend will wonder if they’re dreaming.

Second, they’ll run around the house screaming and happy dancing.

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Third, they have to send an email off to all the other agents reading their book to let them know about the offer and give them 1-2 weeks to read and decide if they would also like to offer.

Fourth, wait. Many of the agents will “step aside” meaning, they’ll decide not to offer rep. But some may decide they also love the book, and offer rep.

It’s kind of counterintuitive, but there are plenty of writers who will admit that this 1-2 weeks between receiving an offer from an agent and then accepting an offer are actually pretty difficult. For starters, you get a huge slew of rejections in a short amount of time, some with feedback about why the agent said no, and all these responses can make the author doubt themselves and wonder if their work really is good enough. Then of course, if they do get multiple offers, they can only choose one agent. Writers have been receiving rejections for years. They know how it feels, and they hate having to hand it out. It can be an agonizing decision. So don’t be surprised if there area few tears during this time along with all the celebrating.

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Yeah, yeah, first world problems. They know.

So, some Do’s and Don’ts.

DO celebrate. This is a huge, huge step in your friends career. They didn’t go out and hire someone. This is some serious validation that your friend is good at what they do.

DO remind them, when they’re feeling down about those step asides, THAT THEY HAVE AN AGENT! WOOHOO!

DON’T confuse getting an agent with getting their book published. Plenty of people have agents but no book deal (yet). The agent will hopefully get your friend a book deal. But agent doesn’t equal book deal.

DON’T in any way, suggest that your friend is being silly when they get emotional during that 1-2 week waiting period. It really is hard. For everyone.

Okay, so what happens now?

There’s going to be a period of time between when your friend gets an agent and when they get a book deal. Here’s what your friend wants you to know about that.

  1. Your friend has to revise their book (again!) but this time with their agent’s notes. Sometimes these are really massive revisions and can take months.

2. The agent then takes the book to publishers. This is referred to as “Going on Sub” or “Going on Submission.” And it’s a lot like querying, in that the material is sent to the editors at the publishing houses, and then everybody hurries up and waits to hear if any of them want to publish it.

3. The publishing world moves very, very slowly. It can take months to hear back from an editor. Most of them will say no. Possibly all of them.

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4. If nobody buys the book or your friend and their agent decide that all their good options have been exhausted, they’ll have to make the hard choice called “shelving the manuscript.” And that stinks. It kind of feels like getting all your hopes up for nothing and your friend is going to be back in that pit of wondering if it is ever actually going to happen for them. They’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into that manuscript. Giving up on it is rough.

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5.Your friend is still writing books. So if they shelve a manuscript, they’ll shine up another one and try to send that one out on sub and go through the same process all over again.

6. Your friend is a lot closer to their goals now. But for some reason, that closeness makes the sting of rejection hurt even worse. There’s a good chance they’ll be an even bigger basket case when they’re on sub than they were while querying. Chocolate helps. Reminding them that 12 publishers turned down JK Rowling doesn’t.

7. And then there are some people who almost none of this applies to. There are some lucky dogs out there who sell their first book with their agent in a week or two. If your friend is one of these people, just realize this is not the norm and everyone is very envious. 😉

8. Even though your friend has been working and focusing on this huge step of getting an agent, in the scheme of their publishing career, it is really only the first step. It’s sort of like someone deciding they are going to open a restaurant and going out and buying the building. There is still so much work, and worrying, and a lot of luck, that goes into seeing that book on the shelf.

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Like all my other posts, the best thing you can do for your friend at this point is just listen without judgment, refrain from offering unwanted advice or invalidating their feelings, and just keep trying to be supportive.

5 thoughts on “When Someone You Love Gets an Agent”

  1. Having been there, as the friend and as the one who got an agent, I vouch that all the above is spot on. I just want to add that some agents will offer to represent all your work, while others offer for the book you submitted to them only. Either one is a validation that (at least) one knowledgeable person is willing to put their time and effort and some $ because they feel your work is sale-able.


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