Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why Offer Exclusives?

Why do authors offer up exclusives when they aren’t even asked? This has happened to us on more than one occasion and I’ll never understand it. An author queries us and we reply that the project sounds interesting, please send along a partial. To which we hear, “I’ve promised that I will only send material to two agents at a time. Since two agents have already requested partials I’m afraid I can’t send it now, but if one should reject the material I will certainly get it out to you right away.”

Why, why, why!? [I’m banging my head on the wall to this.] It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why would you ever ask an agent to wait longer than they will already make you wait? Oftentimes enthusiasm has waned by this point or, worse yet, they get something similar (because there is always something similar) and offer on that project while you’re waiting patiently for exclusives that were never even requested.

Can you imagine if I queried editors and then said, “Sorry, Penguin and Random House, I already sent it to two other publishers. You’ll just have to wait.” I’m not sure they would like hearing that they’re second best and I’m not so sure their enthusiasm would be as high the next time I came around.

Don’t make this job harder on yourself than it already is. If you’re going to query 500 agents at once then be ready to submit partials to 500 agents. If you only want to submit to 2, 5, or 10 at a time, that’s fine. It’s your choice. But then you should only query 2, 5, or 10 at a time.



Aimlesswriter said...

Wow, you must get up early. I was here last night and now there's a new post already.
This is a good one. I always felt that if I want to send it out to multiple agents at the same time and we don't have any contract then there shouldn't be issue. I'd hate to be in the spot where someone asked for an exclusive. (The requests I've had for fulls never asked for an exclusive)I wouldn't want to offend an agent interested in my work but also don't feel I should be locked down to wait without a contract. If one agent asked for an exclusive and I said yes, then #2 great agent called and asked for the full I'd want to send it out to her too. Do I just not say anything and send it? And if I do will either agent get mad at me for not playing the game right?
Oh the stress!

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark talked about his ad nauseum.
Her advice. Do not grant exclusives. I did once with an editor, but it was for two months.
That wasn't too long for me. I could live with that.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I have never given an exclusive at the partial stage, but I've only queried five agents at a time. Like the last poster suggested, the feedback from the initial queries sometimes points to a problem, and I wouldn't want to submit to all possible agents before having an op to fix.

I have allowed an exclusive on one of the two full reads I've had, but it was very time specific. The agent asked for two weeks and I agreed.

The exclusive elicited terrific feedback. It was obvious that she had done just what she said, and read my manuscript right away. She pointed out several weaknesses in the manuscript that I'm working on now. And while she requested two weeks, I received the manuscript back, with notes written thereon, in one day less than two weeks.

The other agent returned the manuscript with a form reject.

Would I do it again? Depends totally on circumstances, but the time frame would be important to me. My experience was positive.

Meanwhile, I hope to resubmit (as requested) to the agent who had the exclusive when I've finished revising.

Anonymous said...

You know, I think a lot of this stems from publisher guidelines. When I first started looking at getting into writing, there were warnings everywhere that it was improper or "illegal" to multiply submit. Given that it can take months or even years for publishers to look at things, I thought this was nuts. Somehow, though, I think this philosophy has stuck and carried over to agents. When a writer is unpublished and impressionable, he/she doesn't want to do anything wrong. In this case, don't follow whatever rules you're reading. It's self-defeating.

Anonymous said...

I don't get an agent that refuses to look at anything, including a partial, unless it's an exclusive.

Playing Devil's Advocate: if an agent refuses to read a partial while it is out with other agents, telling the potential client to get back in touch if the other agents reject it, isn't said agent missing out (possibly) on some pretty good stuff?

And if they do then read it, aren't they apt to reject it knowing other agents have already done so?

Regardless, exclusives make no sense, especially on a partial. What do the exclusive demanders think we writers are anyway: chopped liver?

Anonymous said...

Do I just not say anything and send it? And if I do will either agent get mad at me for not playing the game right?

If you're willing to grant an exclusive for whatever reason, then you need to honor that commitment. It would be unprofessional to do otherwise. You could easily wind up burning a bridge or two. Why put yourself in that position?

And this hypothetical situation demonstrates exactly why exclusives are such a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem also stems from agents springing their desire for 'exclusitivity' on a writer last minute. I've had this happen twice now, both cases I'd checked out the agents guidelines on multiple websites/guides, only to get their request for an exclusive on the partial/full. Had I known, I probably wouldn't have queried them at that time. In one case I explained I couldn't offer it as it was already out and the agent was fine with it. In the other, I ended up granting an exclusive on the full for a short period.