from the mixed up files of Agent Manners

Dear Agent Manners:

What is the protocol for a writer who is in the enviable position of having sold a story to a publisher and is looking for representation prior to signing the contract?


Cautiously Optimistic


Dear Cautiously:

If you have already agreed to basic terms with the publisher, the agent could perhaps improve the boiler-plate language in various clauses. If you have a deal on the table which has not yet been conclusively negotiated, an agent could be very beneficial at that juncture and get you better terms (e.g. advance, royalty schedule, territory, etc.) Agent Manners bids you be wary of agents who might only be interested in the so-called easy commission. Be sure to secure representation from someone knowledgeable about your genre and passionate about your writing. Agent Manners did, once, in the past, as a baby agent, take on a book with a deal on the table without having the necessary enthusiasm for the work and, in the end, this was sadly a less than ideal match for both agent and writer. Which is not to say that Agent Manners isn’t interested in hearing from those with such offers, as some of Agent Manners’ clients could certainly attest.

As for protocol, Agent Manners feels it’s permissible to send a quick email or leave a quick voicemail with relevant information concerning the situation. That should be enough to get the agent’s attention. And, if not, move on to your next target and leave any sour grapes behind.


This concludes this particular run of the Agent Manners column. If your question wasn’t answered, it’s possible that it wasn’t about the subject at hand (submissions) or wasn’t formatted in the spirit of the column.

Watch this blog for additional volumes in the future. But meanwhile, I’m planning a new blog feature which I hope to launch in January….

5 responses to “from the mixed up files of Agent Manners

  1. I couldn’t help but notice that Cautiously Optimistic said “story.” As a book agent, you no doubt assumed that this meant “novel,” and indeed it may have. But I’ll bet the answer is different if the item in question is, in fact, a short story rather than a novel.

    • Good point. Most agents don’t handle short fiction. I believe at DMLA, as a practice, we tend to only work on contracts for shorter-than-novel-length fiction for established clients already on our list.

  2. Thank you, Agent Manners.
    And Happy Holidays.

  3. Thanks
    I really appreciate you taking the time to answer so many questions. I mostly lurk here, but I do learn a lot.
    Travis Erwin

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