Q&A – Can I still pitch an Agent if I’ve already submitted to a Publisher?

I got a great question on Twitter yesterday:

Is it OK to pitch an agent even though you’ve submitted your manuscript to a publisher who requested it? – Janice F.

First off HOORAY! Shoot the fireworks off. You have a publisher who has requested your manuscript! That is fantastic. Well done. Seriously, it is a small step on a long road, but you should celebrate each step.

Second, lets get to your question. The short answer is Yes, it is usually OK to pitch an agent if you have submitted to a publisher. In fact you should be using that tidbit in your pitch! Saying that there is an acquiring editor who has requested your work can be a really valuable piece of information for any Agent. It immediately shows that this is not your first rodeo.

When I attended the New York Pitch Conference (amazing conference, you should go) I had the opportunity to pitch to Editors before I ever met an Agent. While I came away from the conference with major rewrites on my novel, I also knew that two editors were interested in my work. From that point forward I made sure to mention that nugget in both my pitch and my queries. You can see how I integrated it into the REBIRTH INTERRUPTED pitch.

Now here is the longer answer. Once you have a publisher interested it is your job to find appropriate representation. You don’t want to be in a situation where the publisher offers you a deal and you don’t know who to call for help with terms. I know some folks may disagree with this, but you will need a Lawyer/Agent BEFORE you sign any deal. For that reason, it is imperative that you continue to pitch and query.

But who? Which Agent should you pursue? I would recommend jumping on Publisher’s Marketplace to find out about who was involved in the last few deals this Publisher completed. (Get the full subscription, it is only $25 a month and you need the pro version to search all of the contacts and deals. This is a tool every writer needs when you are searching for representation) You can start to track which Agents and Agencies are working with this Publisher regularly, and even see if who the Acquisition Editor has worked with. Once you have that list of Agents, do your homework on each of them. Are they building or expanding their list of Authors? If not, is there a new Agent at their Agency who might be. Do they work in your genre? Are they going to any upcoming conferences? Look for overlaps and tailor your pitch or your query appropriately.

You may find that your dream Agent hasn’t worked with this publisher. That can still be OK, but it is better to know up front, then to be surprised later. If you aren’t sure don’t be shy about asking. When you are in a pitch session make it a point to ask the Agent about their experience with this publisher or others. Their insights will be invaluable.

Remember, when you query or pitch these Agents, or others, it is important that you tell them that your work was requested by a publisher. Let that be part of your hook, but you should expect to get a follow up questions about who you submitted to and where you are in the process.

Publishing is a small world. Make sure you put your best foot forward at each step.

As a reminder I’m just a writer like you. I am not an attorney or agent. If you have been given an agreement or a request for an exclusive review make sure you understand the terms of your agreement. If you don’t have anything on paper and you aren’t really sure of what has been implied, but sure to ask and clarify.

Thanks for your question Janice! I hope that helps. If anyone has a follow up, feel free to leave it in the comments below or reach out to me via twitter or email.


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