When you get an offer…



What do you do when you get an offer of representation or publication? Dance. Pop the champagne. Jump up and down, of course. But then it’s time to get down to business.

  • Let the offering agent or publishing house know you need a week or so to tie up loose ends. This is perfectly normal. The agent or editor won’t withdraw the offer if you don’t accept right away. If they do, it’s a HUGE red flag, and you probably should ask yourself whether you want to work with them anyway.
  • Make sure this is an offer worth accepting. 
    • If you have an offer from an agent, contact a few clients to double check what the agent has shared about communication, submissions, etc. (Agents are often more than happy to provide references.) You also can ask fellow authors about their experience with publishers.
    • In a perfect world, you research the agent or publisher thoroughly BEFORE you query. But we all know this isn’t always the case. So if you haven’t vetted the agent or publisher, do it RIGHT NOW before signing anything. We’ve written a host of posts about research, but here’s a list of some that might help.
  • After reviewing all the information, nudge everyone else with a full or partial. If you’ve sent your manuscript to multiple agents, several publishers, or a mix of agents and publishers, now is the time to nudge. But do this ONLY if you are willing to take the initial offer if you don’t get another. Write to everyone who has your manuscript, putting “Offer of Representation” or “Offer of Publication” in the subject line along with the name of your manuscript. Give the agent or editor a deadline to read and respond, for example, maybe five to seven days depending upon the length of your work. You need a little bit of wiggle room in case someone wants a phone call or you need to contact more clients. Here’s a sample email I drafted for a picture book. I sent this Wednesday, March 31.

Dear Awesome Agent.

On February 1st, I submitted my 850-word picture book biography, EMMA LILIAN TODD WOULD NOT GIVE UP, to you (please see the original query below). Today I received an offer of representation, and I’ve told the offering agent I need a few days to tie up loose ends. If you are interested in this manuscript, could you please let me know by Monday, April 4th?

Thanks so much for your consideration and have a great week.

  • What if your research suggests you shouldn’t accept the offer? If the agent or publisher doesn’t seem like a good fit or your research raises red flags, politely decline. No deal (or agent) is better than a bad deal (or agent). If one agent or publisher loves your work, someone else will too. Some authors still nudge with an offer they don’t want but I think it’s a bad idea. I’ve heard agents say they lean towards “no” when they are nudged with an offer. First, you’re asking them to drop everything and read immediately. Second, they can no longer ask for a revise and resubmit if they are on the fence. Third, knowing someone else wants the work, the bar is set a little higher for a yes, since the agent won’t feel nearly as bad saying no. After all, you already have an offer. I can imagine this mindset is similar for editors.

So, when you get an offer, celebrate, but keep your wits about you. Make sure you research, nudge if appropriate, and make your final decision. And congratulations! You are on your way.

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