Monday, October 22, 2007

More on Exclusives

I would like to know why agents would like to know whether they are seeing your manuscript exclusively. Does it make a difference in making their decision about your work?

It does not make a difference in an agent’s overall decision, but letting an agent know she has an exclusive gives her breathing room. If in fact you have given an exclusive (even voluntarily), she now knows there’s not a huge rush to get to it. In other words, it can easily go to the bottom of her reading pile since there’s no real competition. She also assumes that if she offers there’s not going to be any worry about whether or not you’ll accept. Of course you’ll accept because, again, there’s no competition.

It’s also a matter of curiosity. I know that if I find out that other agents, or editors, have also requested a full manuscript, the material has already received some sort of stamp of approval and might pique my interest more.



Anonymous said...

You are a breath of fresh air Jessica. I love your honesty. This blog is loaded with valuable information. The best agent blog I have read by a long shot.


David Ebright said...

This really is THE most informative & helpful blog that I visit every day - so I have to jump on board with ck about the fresh air & honesty. Very few mixed signals. Question - Do you agree or disagree with the "query widely" approach? I haven't queried any agencies (YA - something you don't handle - so I won't be wasting your time) I've been working on 'perfecting' my 1st book, doing my agent search homework, have a 2nd book underway (50%) & stacks of resarch / notes for ideas on future stories. My goal is to secure representation from an agency that has a good track record for sales in the YA market. Is playing the 'odds' the way to go? I expect to start the query process soon & your advice would be most appreciated. Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

Query widely, query widely, query widely! Yes!

I did so, and I am sooo glad. I had three agent offers on the table, and was able to choose.

Funny, one of mine was a "long shot." I never thought she'd go for my stuff, but I thought what the heck, it's only a query. That person is now my agent.

Query widely, even the long shots.

Anonymous said...

But remember, even if you give an exclusive, and the agent offers, that agent doesn't have to be your only option.

Say you do your homework and know from your research you'd love an agent, then you agree to an exclusive, and the agent offers. You are so stinking excited but then you have a phone call to get a vibe for the agent, and it all falls apart. What are you gonna was an exclusive and no one else read it?

Here's what you can do...tell the offereing agent you need a couple days to process all you've learned and you'll get back to her in a few days when your emotions settle down. That's when you get on the horn with other agents and say "I already have an offer, but would like to see if you're interested because..."

Those that want in will respond very quickly and you can give them a few days to read your ms and expand your options before getting back to the exclusive agent. Sometimes all the research in the world can't make up for not hitting it off personality wise.

Anonymous said...

I have a question along the lines of jaxpop's question. I have an epic fantasy novel that could be classified as YA (though I haven't been shopping it around as such). I did my research and only found 37 agents that handle fantasy and have successfully sold fantasy or science fiction before. Ten of those agents very clearly state that they no longer take unsolicited queries (or unsolicited manuscripts). Another seven make it quite clear that they're only interested in paranormal, urban, or dark fantasy. My novel isn't any of those. So I'm left with 20 agents. I've queried 15 of them and received: 7 form rejections, 2 personalized rejections basically saying they don't have time right now, but it's an interesting premise and they're sure I'll get an agent if I keep querying, and 1 request for a partial that was rejected with a form "like it, don't love it" but that another agent might take it. I haven't heard back yet from 5 agents.

On one hand, I've received encouraging feedback. On the other hand, I've only gotten one request for a partial, which is pretty sad stats from what I hear. Not to mention that I got a form rejection of the partial using a phrase that 95% of the time means "this sucks."

I will, of course, query the last 5 agents on my list. However, then what? Jessica, is it really worth querying agents that say they take fantasy but have never sold to a fantasy publisher before? How do I know they have good contacts and a decent chance of selling my novel?

However, even if I query all remaining fantasy agents, there still aren't that many more of them left. Should I query my novel as a YA novel to "sold a YA novel" agents before the "never sold a fantasy" fantasy agents? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

perhaps those agents who haven't sold a ya or fantasy but like them have not sold because they haven't found one they love yet. Or maybe they don't get many queries in the area because of the very reason you cite: no sales yet.
It's worth a try, if they are legit, read your manuscript and love it.
I would definitely take enthusiasm over being just another notch on a belt. Plus, the agent would be breaking new ground for themselves. You wouldn't get lost.

As far as exclusives, I am ok with a short exclusive. I wouldn't be submitting to anyone I wouldn't love to have represent my work.


Kimber Li said...

serious writer,

I don't know about all that other stuff but I do know from talking to teens who read Fantasy that the YA label is irrelevent to them. They read adult and YA alike. In fact, most of them say they read Adult. From talking to them, my guess is the YA label only matters with contemporary fiction. As far as I can tell, this group doesn't read contemporary fiction or much at all. That's how I was as a teen too.

There is Fantasy that is decidedly YA, but if your Fantasy could go either way I'd vote for Adult. That's just my opinion based on talking to teens.

Anonymous said...

Kimber An,

I agree. That's why I was going for a "fantasy" agent rather than a "YA" agent. However, I know of a couple agents that say they do not accept fantasy but have sold a YA fantasy. I'm wondering if I should try these agents or even YA agents in general before trying agents with no sales in fantasy. I guess I've heard so many stories of agents who give up on or aren't able to sell a manuscript that I'm wary of agents that say they take a genre but have never sucessfully sold a book in that genre. Agents aren't [i]quite[/i] as necessary in fantasy, and I'd rather submit it to publishers myself rather than have it stalled with a "bad agent."

Anonymous said...

This is all good to know.

Christine Carey said...

Do you ever ask for exclusives?

Anne-Marie said...

Jessica, this is really such an informative blog. Thank you so much for putting out such relevant information for us.

From a writer's perspective, though, it seems that offering an exclusive might make an agent slow down and not make the work a priority. What would be the advantage for an author, then? It seems better to pique an agent's interest than to have the process slowed down, or will some agents just flatly refuse to consider multiple submissions? Is it possible to refuse exclusivity but change your mind later?

Anonymous said...

This is such a touchy area... Kristen Nelson thought it sounds like 'bragging' if you mention to a prospective agent that others have requested your material.

What to do... what to do?

I read you every day as well. You have a nice, straight forward style.

David Ebright said...

Thanks Bran Fan. I better get busy.

Aimlesswriter said...

So what if I tell the agent I'm giving them an exclusive and keep sending it out to other agents anyway? How would they find out? Is it so big a sin? If you (or someone in your agency) asked for an exclusive and rhe writer did this---what would you do?
I think exclusives are kinda a mean control issue...

Anonymous said...

So what if I tell the agent I'm giving them an exclusive and keep sending it out to other agents anyway?

Well, it'd make you a liar, for one. Agents do talk, and if they were to find out, you'd probably find yourself with two (or more) rejections rather quickly. Act professionally and get treated professionlly. Act smarmy, and...well, you know the rest.

You don't have to allow exclusivity. I didn't, and I ended up with multiple offers to choose from. There is no benefit to the writer to granting agents exclusivity.

But if you do decide to grant exclusivity, make it a firm and very short (2-4 weeks, top) deadline.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Thank you for all of the compliments everyone.

I do agree that you should avoid exclusives and query as widely as possible at all times. I've written a number of posts on exclusives. Scroll through for more info on that subject.

As for querying widely I would do so with some control. In other words, I wouldn't suggest you query 100 agents at a time. But ten or so at a shot is a good idea. This also gives you a sense of whether your query letter is working or needs tweaking before you've burned all of your bridges.

As for the question on fantasy. I can try to address this in another post. I think you should broaden a little to all agents who represent fantasy even if they're a little outside of how you see your book. You never know. And as for those who haven't sold that's ultimately a judgement call. Submit to them and if they offer use it as an opportunity for an in-depth discussion on their contacts, etc. I haen't sold fantasy for example (although I am representing some now), but do have contacts, close contacts, at all the major fantasy houses. It will take some time, but I'll get there.

Aimless: My concern would be whether I want to work with an author who lies to me and whether said author would want me to lie to them. Honesty is always the best policy. Simply send the material anyway and explain that you can't offer an exclusive.


Michael S. Hugh said...

A question of etiquette

Should you advise an agent that you have received a request for a manuscript from other agents.


I sent twnty letters.

Agent A has requested the full manuscript.

Agent B has also requested the full manuscript.

Should I advise the other agents I am waiting on?

Am I obligated (as a matter of courtesy) to tell Agents A and B of each other's request (both requests arrived the same day)

Many thanks


Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering my question, Jessica.

As for broaden my querying a little to all agents who represent fantasy even if they're a little outside of how I see my book, I'll do so. Most agents aren't happy that people send them queries for books outside the genre they represent, and I was trying to be cooperative. I just read on another agent blog, though, that even though they may say "we only want paranormal or urban fantasy" that doesn't mean they'll automatically ditch queries for normal fantasy. You definitely know your stuff. :)