That is exactly what happened to my writing partner and I last autumn. We’d been querying widely for just over three months, carefully researching each agent and agency. On the surface, this particular agency looked great: they made what looked like credible claims about their deals, they had enthusiastic quotes from clients about the agency, and they showcased their clients’ books on their website.
Looking back now, I realize that our naïveté and enthusiasm upon receiving that first offer partially blinded us to the red flags we should have seen sooner. To our credit, we spotted those red flags quickly once we did more in-depth research before responding to the offer.
The most important thing we did at the time was invest $20/month in a Publishers Marketplace subscription; that was how we found out that the claims made on the agency website about sales and rankings were untrue. In the single phone conversation I had with him, two things happened that set off warning bells: he said our manuscript was flawless and didn’t need a single word of editing (after doing revisions with our current agent, I know that couldn’t have been further from the truth), and he refused to give me the names of his other clients to ask for references, something we’d been advised by other agents was a normal request from prospective clients.
Ann and I jointly agreed that we were uncomfortable with his attitude and the information we had discovered. We had already informed several other agents who had the manuscript of the offer, but all of them passed on it. It was a very painful decision to turn down that offer knowing that we were essentially starting again from scratch and that we might be throwing away our only chance at ever getting an agent. But we agreed that no agent was better than being contracted to a bad agent.
We queried again for several months before discovering Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency. We write crime fiction with a scientific edge, so Nicole caught our eye when she listed herself as a ‘consummate science geek’. We queried Nicole and things moved very quickly from query to a full request. When Nicole corrected a scientific point in the manuscript, we knew we’d found our match. Nicole offered shortly thereafter, and we haven’t looked back since.
Good things come to those who wait. If you believe in your work, don’t short change it by leaping at the first offer unless it’s the right offer. Persevere, and hopefully you’ll find that your match is out there too.