Friday, April 24, 2015

Why You Should Resist Giving Agents Exclusives

I can't even begin to think about the number of times I've written on this subject. One search of exclusives on the blog will probably bring up a ton of posts. And yet, I still get emails like this:

I'm sorry for bothering you, but I wanted to check in with you on the status of my romance novel, SECOND CHANCES. I first submitted the book eight weeks ago and I'd like to know if I should continue to wait or start querying other agents. Thanks again for this opportunity. 


Why, oh why are you waiting for me to respond before querying? I never, ever, ever asked for an exclusive and I don't think I've ever asked for an exclusive. There are very few agents who will ask for an exclusive these days and if they do, ignore it and send your queries out anyway.

Your search for an agent is about finding the best partner for your career. Waiting months for a response from one person at a time is never going to help you kick that career off the ground. So query and submit widely, talk to as many agents as possible and choose the one who is the absolute best fit for your work.



Sally MacKenzie said...

And do I have this right? If you get an offer of representation, call the other agents you've sent your query to and give them a chance to jump in. Or, if you're sure you've snagged your dream agent, send the others an email withdrawing your submission. It helps to remember that writers are the talent--agents NEED us. (Full disclosure: Jessica is my agent.)

The Other Stephen King said...

Yep, query them all at once...but don't ever let them know you're doing it by sending out mass emails to everybody at the same time with the greeting, "Dear One of Thirty Agents I Randomly Selected to Query." Yeah, that's bad.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! How do you tell an agent, politely, that you won't give them an exclusive? I'm not a good liar, so I can't say "sure" and then go back on my word. Yet, on the other hand, I always feel like the refusal to grant the request for an exclusive works against me as they're considering my manuscript. To date, I've been "lucky" and have been able to respond, honestly, that I'm not able to do so as it's already under consideration.

Elissa M said...


I would just say, "I'm sorry but I don't do exclusives." I don't see it being a problem with queries though, because no agent is going to directly ask for an exclusive on a query. It might be in the guidelines, but some guidelines can be "overlooked".

Fulls are a different matter, but I still would keep my options open. I would tell an agent asking for an exclusive exactly that: "I like to keep my options open." If this offends the agent to the point they change their mind, we probably wouldn't have been compatible business partners anyway.

Anonymous said...

Hi Elissa,
Excellent point on the compatibility. You're right. I'm a pretty flexible person and probably wouldn't work well with that degree of rigidity.

Thanks for answering. I've run across a few agents I've not queried because their query guidelines say they only accept exclusive submissions. And no - I'm not worried about exclusives on the actual querying. With as long as some agents take to respond (or not respond at all) on a query, I'd be an old woman if I only sent one query out every 6-8 weeks. :) It's the partials and fulls that always make me squirm.

Anonymous said...

I truly appreciate your take on this subject. When I see the term "exclusive," my first thought is "am I permitted to query other agents or does this apply only to requested materials/manuscripts?'
Hence, I will query to my hearts content.

Thank you!

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Thank you for all the great comments/questions. I'm going to answer these in a post for next week so that those asking questions and those afraid to ask can all see the answers.


AJ Blythe said...

I've seen 'exclusive query' requirements on the submission guidelines of agents before, but I've seen a number of agents make similar comments to Jessica's: ignore exclusive requirements and send to as many agents as you wish.

My need to follow rules has always had me a little on edge with this one, so I will be interested to read more on Jessica's follow-up next week :)