I've been querying for my first agent. Some queries went out a few months ago with requests for the full but no response otherwise. Some queries went out a week ago with almost instant requests for fulls. And then phenomenal turnaround times in reading the MS.
Great feedback, some rejections and one accepted offer of representation later, I emailed everyone who still had a partial or full manuscript to update them on my new agented status.
I got an email back from an agent who was holding on to the full the longest stating they had spent the day reading my manuscript and deserved to respond to the offer. Bad manners, they said. But there was no exclusivity attached.
Is it bad manners? Have I gone against established protocol? I should be happy to have jumped this hurdle and focus on revisions and preparing my manuscript for the next step. But that response really took me by surprise and made me question how I've gone about the process. How should I proceed during the next stage of writing life without making another stupid mistake? Many thanks for your insight.
If it makes you feel any better, I made many similar mistakes when I got my own agent this summer, despite my years of working in the business. It's a very tricky thing because some understandings are unwritten, and I honestly don't know how agents expect us to know them if they never talk about them.
In general, people who get an offer from an agent usually call up the other agents who were considering a partial or a full and ask them if they also want to offer representation, because authors like to keep their options open and are not necessarily sure that the agent that responded is the one they want. When I got my book offer, I called every agent who had a partial or full and told them I had a book offer, and would they like to consider my work more seriously? Most responded within 24 hours, some begging for more time. Then it became difficult to choose, and I wasn't quite sure how to go about doing it. It's not easy for anyone.
I don't think what you did was bad manners. Some authors do jump on the first (or second) offer, and leave other agents in the dust, because that was the agent they wanted in the first place. In fact, it was very polite (and correct) of you to inform the others that you now had an agent and they should remove you from their consideration pile. If they expected more from you, they should have told you so, or demanded an exclusive. I would mark that agency off your list for down the road; it doesn't seem like they're right for you, anyway.