I've recently received requests from agents for full manuscripts (yay!)
The last two have asked whether they would be looking at it exclusively.
What are the getting at? Do they think I'm querying agents one at a time? Do they only want to read my ms if they know that other kids are reading it? Are they stuck in an early century?
I replied to each that other agents were also reviewing the manuscript, and they could let me know if they had a problem with that. But honestly? It just felt so strange, and as though I must be missing something.
My thoughts on exclusivity are widely available (they stink.) That said, sometimes I do ask a querier if I'm the only one looking at something.
My intent is not to ask for exclusivity (cause we all know that stinks) but simply to assess where we are in the query process.
If a querier has sent out 200 queries and I'm the only agent reading, well, that gives me some good intel on where we are.
If the querier has sent out 3 queries, and I'm only the first to respond, that's intel too.
Mostly this happens with non-fiction for me. When I read a proposal for a non-fiction book there's often a lot of revising and editing and shaping to come. I'm reluctant to start offering up all these suggestions if an author hasn't narrowed his search down a bit. Some of that is concern for time management: writing up all those ideas about revisions is time consuming. Some of it purely proprietary: I don't want the author to take all my ideas for revision, improve the proposal and then sign with someone else.
I think you can assume that all agents assume you are querying more than one agent at a time. Asking about exclusives is a bit different than asking FOR an exclusive (which is good, cause we all know those STINK.)