In the past month, INTERN had the pleasure of supporting not one but two editing clients-turned-writer friends through the strangely harrowing process of choosing between multiple offers of representation.
"Multiple offers of representation?" you say. "How delightful! Surely these writer-friends did not require much in the way of emotional support."
Multiple offers of rep are the bizarro version of rejection letters. Instead of dashing your hopes, they suddenly make them seem possible. Instead of limiting your choices, they present you with a dazzling array. For the first time, you're the Rejector. You become *responsible* for your fate—capable of making the wrong decision (whereas if you have only one offer, it is always going to seem like the right decision).
As far as INTERN can tell, multiple offer situations are not particularly rare. Before it happens to you, please be advised of the following myths surrounding the multiple offer situation, and the hard truths that lurk behind them.
Myth #1: You will be ecstatic.
Have you ever seen one of those ads for antidepressants or heartburn medication, with the happy people twirling around in a field of daisies 'cause they feel so dang GREAT, when you know in reality they're barely hanging on by their fingernails?
There's this idea among yet-to-be-published writers that getting multiple offers of representation will look something like one of those ads: beautiful, well-groomed you will dance through the nearest meadow in an ecstasy of spiritual and intellectual fulfillment.
In fact, you will experience the mangiest week of your entire life. You will sit by your computer, hollow-cheeked and stringy-haired, reading your potential agents' Publishers Marketplace profiles, blog posts, and interviews until you can recite their stats in your sleep. You will be unable to sleep or eat. You will leap out of bed to Google "one last detail" until your significant other exiles you to the couch.
In short, you will be miserable and you will make everyone around you miserable.
Myth #2: You will ask useful questions during your Agent Phone Calls.
The internet is full of lists of Essential Questions to Ask Potential Agents. You will dutifully copy these lists down. You might even make a chart with which to organize and compare the various agents' answers.
When you're on the phone with the first of the agents, you will look down at your list, only to realize that the colors in the gently used children's birthday party napkin on which you copied the list in the name of eco-friendliness have begun to bleed in such a way that you can no longer make out a single word.
In a vain attempt to remember those Essential Questions, you will ask your potential agent such penetrating queries as "Who will photocopy—it—if it needs to be—um." And: "When can I expect the delivery?"
Myth #3: You will weigh the pros and cons.
It is astonishingly hard to find downsides to any of the agents who are offering you representation. After all, you queried them for a reason—if they had freaking DOWNSIDES, you wouldn't have queried them in the first place!
Instead, you will be overwhelmed by the upsides. And, oh, how many upsides there are:
Big Corporate Agency: "We have offices in New York, Paris, and the MOON!"
Wee Boutique Agency: "We only take on three new extra-special clients per year!"
Up-and-Coming Agent: "I've only made two deals so far, but they were major three-book extravaganzas!"
Established Agent: "I've made two hundred deals in my day! Stick with me, young whippersnapper!"
Uber-Agent: "Never mind the background noise, I'm calling from my private Lear jet en route to NYC to negotiate a major deal for a very special client of mine who just wrote a—oops, can you hang on for a second, Princess Diana's on the other line."
Friendly Agent: "Why don't you come over for apple crumble and we'll talk about your manuscript in person?"
Shady Agent: "I've already got Dreamworks on the line. All you have to do is fill out this money order as a small retainer"
Gangster Agent: "Welcome to da family. HarperCollins don't buy it, we bust some kneecaps, know what I mean?"
Myth #4: You will go with your gut.
When all the (botched) questioning and (impossible) pro-versus-con weighing and (increasingly incoherent) one-sided "discussions" with your friends and family are done, it will be time to make a decision. When that moment arrives, all you have to do is go with your gut.
But can you really trust your gut? What if your gut's a greedy little stinker? Should you go with Uber-Agent because she makes the biggest deals, even if all evidence suggests she's not only incompatible with you but downright insane? Should you go with Friendly Agent because you got along so well on the phone, even though you don't recognize any of the authors on her list?
This is your career, after all! Your career! Are you really supposed to trust your career to a friggin' INTESTINE?
You weep and fret and writhe until you're a shadow of your former self.
Then you sit down at the computer and start typing four rejection e-mails, and one acceptance...
Have you ever dealt with multiple offers of rep? How did you make your final decision? INTERN wants to know!