Friday, October 15, 2010

Exclusive Requests

I recently made a post on a forum at which I wanted to share and expand on.

There were quite a few heated opinions being tossed around, but what really raised my hackles was that EVERYONE seemed to think that an exclusive request=good/bad agent.

This is just not true. It is impossible to decide if an agent is reputable or not based on whether or not they ask for exclusive requests.

When I first started agenting, I asked for exclusives. Part of the reason I did this was because my reading period was incredibly fast, and so an exclusive wasn't something that meant "I have months to finally get to this!" to me. It was rather a sigh of relief because I knew that a project I was excited about wouldn't be snatched up before I had a chance to consider it!

However, the biggest reason I asked for exclusives was: I was trained to ask for them.

My boss loves exclusives. She is so incredibly busy that when she is excited by a manuscript, she wants to KNOW that the time she spends with it was worth it, especially because the time she spends with it is fairly in-depth. She types up notes and gets second (and third) reads on manuscripts to consider every angle. Her time isn't more valuable than the author's (as is a common perception of the exclusive request), just valuable, period. (And I think notes from Sandra Dijkstra are worth an exclusive!)

My style has evolved since then, however, and at this point, I don't ever ask for exclusives anymore. I'll be honest: I like the competition. I want to know an author is signing with me because they really connect with me, not because there were no other options. I've also only gotten busier and busier, so even manuscripts I'm excited about don't get read right away, and I hate to keep someone tied up because of that.

But is it possible to label either of us GOOD or BAD based on our preferences? No.

Don't worry about the agent quality when confronted with an exclusive request; you should have already done your research on them before submitting.

Worry instead about whether or not you'd feel comfortable granting it (if they're your dream agent, why the heck not, right?!) or whether or not you are ABLE to grant it (if you have other fulls out, say so; they're already excited, so you'll either hear back, "that's ok, send and notify me immediately if you get any other offers" or "thanks for letting me know; please send to me when available for an exclusive").

And then just get up and do a little happy dance because someone is excited about your work!


  1. There's one other possible response of an agent regarding the request for a full. "Since you can't offer an exclusive, I'll have to pass altogether." That was probably the most painful rejection I ever got because the head of the agency actually contacted me about reading it, and seemed quite interested, but when I was honest and mentioned someone else had it, she passed entirely. Worst part is I still haven't heard back from the agent who had it at the time I lost out on th eother opportunity.

    I love your blog, Ms. Fischer. Agents who blog are awesome!

  2. I had never even considered the notion that requesting an exclusive could equal good/bad agent. Everything you said makes total sense to me. Very interesting discussion!

  3. I was just wondering about this! It was like you read my mind :D Thanks for the post!
    Question: What do you think about querying agents who ask exclusive mss if you already have some fulls out there?

  4. This is such a great post. I haven't seen many posts about this topic, leaving me a bit in the dark. I actually feel very similarly to you, although from the opposite angle--my ideal would be to get to talk with a couple of different agents to find which one is the best fit, rather than limit myself to one via an exclusive submission. Luckily most of my dream agents don't require exclusives, so I've been sort of avoiding the topic. This is totally helpful for learning how to deal with the issue so I don't have to do that anymore, yay!

    One question though: with agents who say that exclusives are preferred but not required, how badly would I be shooting myself in the foot NOT to offer an exclusive to them? Are they significantly less likely to pay attention to the ms?

  5. Tory - yes, that is also a possibility, but I guess I'm more optimistic than that! From my perspective, if I was really interested, even if I had to pass because of that requirement, I'd want to hear back later if you COULD offer the exclusive. But that is my style; perhaps you wouldn't have meshed well with this agent anyway!

    Monica - if you already have several fulls out, STOP submitting. Period. I know it's exciting, but you're really doing an injustice to the agents who are just getting the query letter. From an agent's perspective, I find it frustrating when I get a letter and three days later hear "Oh, I already have an offer so...I need a decision within a week." Plus, why WOULD you query an agent who asks for exclusivity when you can't grant it?

    Meagan - If they say it's not required, it's not required. If it was seriously going to affect your submission, it would be required. For ex, our agency website says exclusive preferred, but honestly, we never expect to get them - unless of course Sandy asks to read the full. Then you could expect it to be required ;)

  6. Oh, to get an exclusive! Is this really a problem for people?

  7. When I was asked for an exclusive, I was terrified because I too had read so many horror stories about agent twirling their evil mustache adn filing it in a pile to read in 2015. LOL. However, I love love loved the agent I'd sent the partial to, and I was more than willing to give her time because I really wanted her to want it. She was my agent crush and it was worth the wait. Also, it wasn't a huge wait. She was excited about it and got back with me in a shorter time frame than her site promised.
    Tina Lynn - I laughed out loud! Yes. How awful, right? What a problem to have in this business!

  8. Natalie, Thanks for your answer!
    When you put it that way, you make so much sense, lol. But I guess I'm just so anxious waiting and fretting about possible rejections on fulls that I'm not seeing the agents' perspective, which is my bad :P

    Anyway, I have a friend who signed with an agent and she had 7 fulls out--six of them were rejected and only ONE got an offer... so I guess I'm thinking what one agent loved the other one can only think "meh." You know?

    Another writer I know queried an agent who asked for exclusives and got a request. Then she said, "I have my ms out, but would you like to take a look anyway?" Agent said, "Yes!" Later on, she signed with that agent. :D (Well, but I guess those stories are rare, right?)

  9. I don't have a problem with exclusives as long as I know the response time is going to be reasonable. There's always something else to work on, and I'd rather have the feedback to improve the MS before sending it out again.

    Great points. Probably the best point is to know who you are querying, then you know if the exclusive is worth it.

  10. Thanks for posting this! You clarified some things I've wondered about. Personally I prefer non-exclusive agents because I like to have options and to get as much feedback as I can. Great post :)

  11. thanks for this - great post - was wondering.

  12. This was on my mind, too. Thank you for sharing an agent's perspective.

  13. Hi Natalie..thanks for this wonderful post. Living in India, I am not familiar with agent talk (we don't have literary agents in India) and I used to often wonder why some agents asked for exclusives. I would not judge an agent based on whether they wanted an exclusive or not.


  14. Oh, to have a problem like that! I think you've hit the nail on the head when you say that you shouldn't be judging an agent by their exclusive policy--you should already have done the research! I'll be ready to query in a couple of months and I've read interviews, checked webpages, followed blogs and twitter feeds. I have a ton of information about the agents I'm interested in--an exclusive policy is one piece that certainly wouldn't be the deciding factor.

  15. This is a great post - you do a god job of presenting the other side of exclusive requests. I've avoided them because I don't want my MS tied up, but in the end, it's really about finding the best-fit agent, exclusive or not.

  16. Thanks for the blog. LMAO Tina. And Natalie, I want to put in my willingness to accept your request for the exclusive at this time.