Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Question: verily that was a foolish error, but now what

Dear Ms. Reid (aka Your Sharkness):

I discovered I did an incredibly stupid thing. I have two different agents reading my full manuscript and each thinks they are reading it exclusively. Hard as it may be to believe, it was an honest error on my part. When the second request came in, it was from an assistant.  I foolishly assumed she worked with the first agent and that my initial sending of the full manuscript had failed to go through. It took over a week for me to realize what I'd done. To make things worse, I reassured the second agent's assistant their agency would be reading the manuscript exclusively -- since she had asked in her email.

What is the best way to handle this? (And yes, I will be keeping much better records in the future!)

Well, first of all you are entitled to one (1) rant about how exclusives stink and you shouldn't be offering them or granting them, no matter who asks.

Second, yes, you need to keep better track of who you're sending your manuscript to. 

And third, yes, you have to fess up.  And by fess up I mean you have to write to who ever got the second exclusive and say pretty much what you told me here: you made an incorrect assumption about who was asking, and thus the manuscript is not with them exclusively.  And then you have to tell the first one too.

The good side of this little snafu is that you are going to find out in short order what these two agents are made of.  Either or both can say "hey, stuff happens, no worries" and that will be that.  Or, either or both can throw hissy fits and you'll know something about how these agents respond when stuff happens.  And let me tell you: one thing publishing is known for is STUFF HAPPENING. 

Exclusives stink for a lot of reasons and one of them is exactly this: you're now in to a situation that makes you worry and fret and kick yourself.  And while it's true you got there via your own error there's something to be said for agents NOT creating situations where authors can be made to worry and fret.  Our job is quite the opposite in fact: making sure we offer guidance and advice to keep an author from worrying and fretting over meaningless stuff.


Susan Bonifant said...

Another collective "whew" across the land. Thank you Janet, for bringing up the stuff that makes us fret and offering the perspective that gets lost in that post-submission state.

The Dieselpunkette said...

I'm glad I read about exclusives before I got any requests for my most recent manuscript - I had one agent request an exclusive at the same time as another agent made a request, who's website stated that they prefer to review manuscripts on an exclusive basis. One agent had said, if an agent is going to reject you for refusing to offer an exclusive, they might not be an agent you want to work with. I just put a line in the email with the manuscript "Unfortunately I'm not in a position to offer an exclusive at this time." Neither agent mentioned it - it didn't seem to be a big deal.

MNye said...

'Post submission state'. ..It, has a name. Comforting. I'm learning more each day, that it ain't just me. Like a fat runner with shin splints, these states of paranoia and frantic finger biting are the business end of being a writer. Just the start. Yeah. Good.

DLM said...

Great Zot, how I love Janet. I'm going to have to go scoop up one (1) Gossamer the Editor Cat just to manage my admiration.

BonnieShaljean said...

I love Dieselpunkette's idea of adding the I'm-not-in-a-position-to-offer-exclusives disclaimer in the submission email. Seems like it would short-circuit potential problems.

Is there any reason why one shouldn't adopt this as a matter of course? (I know we shouldn't need to, but… stuff happens.) It just seems easier on all concerned to state this upfront. Yes? No? Maybe? Sometimes? Never On Sunday?

Joseph Snoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph Snoe said...

I worry and fret about everything. I'm close to the querying stage and I worry and fret about that.