I realize that getting multiple offers of rep from agents is sort of like the “First World Problems” of the publishing journey. But until you are there, I think everyone really underestimates the stress of it. And if you are like me and have issues with being a people pleaser, it can be even more stressful.
When you suffer from being a people pleaser, you tend to have problems worrying about what other people think of you, trying to make everyone happy, and fretting over upsetting someone. I’m such a people pleaser, that I occasionally still think about my sixth grade teacher, who never seemed to love me the way my other teachers did, and I find myself thinking, “Gosh, why did she hate me so much?” This is just a touch unreasonable for a grown woman to still spend brain power on. Of course, the one nice thing she said about me was that I had a very strong writing voice. And now I’m a writer…and hmm…this really doesn’t sound healthy. 😉
But back to the issue at hand. As a people pleaser, getting your first offer of representation will be amazing!
Look! Somebody loves your work! They want you! It’s the best thing ever!
Then other offers roll in. And they’re all amazing too. Because the only thing better for a people pleaser than having one person love you, is having several people love you.
But then you have to make a choice. And this is where your people-pleasing becomes a real problem. Having been in this situation, I want to give you a few questions to ask yourself as you are considering who to choose to be your agent, to make sure you are making the best decision for you and not for someone else.
- Do I feel like I owe this agent something?
This tends to be a problem with the very first offering agent. After all, they pulled you out of the slush, they found you first. All those other offers are because of the first agent. Shouldn’t there be some extra points for that? I remember reading a stat somewhere that writers overwhelmingly go with their original agent offer, and I think a lot of it has to do with this bond that is felt from being discovered. And there is definitely something to be said for that. However, it is important to remember that you are looking for a business partner. Someone to work with as equals. You shouldn’t make your decision based on a feeling of indebtedness.
2. Am I worried about hurting this agent’s feelings?
I think this is probably a worry everyone has when they have to turn down an offer, but it is felt especially by people pleasers. I just had a friend in this situation recently talk to me about it. How can I turn this person down? They were so nice. What if they hate me now? I will tell you the same two things I told her. First, all agents understand that this is a business. Any agent who loves your book enough to offer is going to expect that other people will feel the same way. None of this is a surprise to them. They know you will be nudging everyone else, they know you might get another offer. And they know you might decide to go with that offer. You won’t be the first or the last to turn them down. Second, they will not hate you. They will definitely be disappointed. But they will handle it with grace and be very nice about it. I promise. And if they don’t, you don’t want to be represented by them anyway.
3. Am I only choosing this agent to impress other people?
This might sound like an odd question to ask yourself. But the flip side of being a people pleaser is that you probably also really want to impress people. And so if you get multiple offers and one of them is from a really big name in the industry, you will feel immediately affirmed and want everyone to know it! It’s impressive! However, just because that agent is a big name, doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best fit for you. And so, when you find yourself making a decision and thinking, “Wow, everyone will think it’s so awesome that I’m repped by HER!” or something along those lines, make sure to take a step back and analyze why you would choose her if nobody ever knew who she was. Try your best to really be objective about it. Write out your reasons for working with this particular agent over the others, and make sure that there is more than just, “She sells a lot of books.” Not that that isn’t important, it most definitely is, but there are also other things to consider in the agent/client relationship.
4. Am I excited to work with this agent, or will I feel like I’m settling?
Your agent wants you to be as excited to work with them as they are with you. If you feel like you are settling, or like you’ll always have this thought in the back of your mind of, “I could have gone with so and so…” don’t accept that offer. It’s not fair to you, but more importantly, it’s not fair to the offering agent. Both parties should be absolutely enthusiastic.
I hope this helps someone in that insanely stressful and wonderful situation. And if I could finish off this post with one last word of advice, it would be this.
Schedule your “Offer rejection” emails to go out a few hours later, so you don’t have to actually press send. And then send your offer acceptance email so that you have a few hours of just celebration with your new agent before you have to feel bad about turning down those other offers. Trust me, when you get the celebratory email back or talk on the phone and hear how happy and excited they are, it makes handling that feeling of letting the others down so much easier!
Happy decision making!