Question: I have a question for you for your blog that I hope can help others as well as myself.
I write in multiple genres: YA, mystery and commercial. Some agents are good at YA markets, others focus on mystery markets, some both. I am querying two different works at the moment: a YA and a mystery, NOT both in the same query letter.
What happens if lightning strikes and two different agents decide they would like to rep one of the books and has an 'exclusivity' or 'next book' clause in their contract? What would you, Janet Reid, like to be told about this situation to maintain a positive business relationship with the author? Is it out of the question for a writer to have multiple agents, matching the particular genre?
Answer: First let's be clear what we're talking about. "Next book" clauses are in publishing contracts, not author/agency agreements.
When I sign you up, I fully expect to represent everything you write. If you decide to write haiku gay porn novels in Greek, well, that's what co-agents are for. In fact, one of the many benefits of signing with FinePrint (brief pause for Blatant Self Promotion here!) is that we have enough agents to field our own baseball team thus what I'm not so good at, someone else specializes in. We help each other out all the time. It's one of the things I value most about being with a big agency in fact, and I believe it's of real value to my clients.
Now, if you should sign elsewhere, perhaps with a one person shop, or the understanding is that the agent will represent you for just one book, then you aren't talking about exclusivity. Exclusivity is used only in the submission process.
What you'll need here is an agency/author agreement for a specified length of time and clearly lays out how the relationship is ended (30 day notice by either party), and most important, what obligations survive termination.
For example, there are several people who for one reason or another are no longer represented by a FinePrint agent. We still receive their royalty checks and send them their proceeds, and their 1099s. You want to make sure your one time agent will do this, because if they don't, you'll want to get the money divided by the publisher and sent to you directly.