Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

R&R exclusives

On a recent WIR you explained how to query when you have an offer on the table. You mentioned it is best to involve the agent as soon as possible in the process.

Scenario: an editor offered an R&R. I agreed with editor's vision and suggestions, (which have made my book 100x stronger). Checked out all the online resources for red flags. Talked to a writer in my local RWA chapter who has published with said publisher. All looks good. I agree to proceed, and receive my very first edit letter.

During the R&R discussion, this is what was agreed to: I would take as long as I need to revise, and when I submit back to editor I would give editor 90 days to offer/reject before submitting elsewhere (I know exclusives are bad, but after the extensive edit letter and all the work editor put into it, this seemed reasonable). If editor likes, it goes to acquisition board, and if they like it, they make an offer. I stated up front that if an offer was made I would be contacting an agent.

My questions for you are - did I screw anything up in this process? Is an exclusive okay in these circumstances? And, if my timing choices for querying an agent are (a) when I'm done with the book, (b) when the editor is considering the revised book, (c) when the editor decides the book is the best thing ever and takes it to the board, or (d) when a formal offer is made, which do I chose? I am thinking the answer is (d), and if no offer is made, query normally?

No you didn't screw anything up, and yes you should query with a subject line of "offer in hand from X publisher" when you query (answer d.)

If an editor has given you notes and asked for an exclusive on the revised manuscript, it's polite to say yes. I probably would have negotiated a shorter time period since things get pushed down the To Do list the longer the time frame for MUST REPLY.  30 days is certainly enough time to read something and decide if you want to take the next step.

My trumpeted disdain of exclusives is when the agent or editor hasn't added any value yet. Just offering to read something doesn't add value. It's our damn job.

Once the editor or agent has some skin in the game (ie sent an editorial letter) then giving them first crack at revisions is the right thing to do.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I'm confused.
Maybe I'm missing something.
I read OP twice, should I read again?
If you have an "offer in hand from X publisher" why would you be querying?

LynnRodz said...

More coffee for you 2Ns, if the deal doesn't go through, then OP would query normally. The operative word is if.

Good questions and answers. This clears up a lot. Once again, thanks Janet.

Lisa Bodenheim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Bodenheim said...

Good (early yet) morning.

In addition to what LynnRodz says, I imagine the other scenario is if Opie wants an agent to help negotiate the contract and be his/her representative as a writer?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I reread again. There's a little more I missed.

Theme music for today,"...if I only had a brain."

luciakaku said...

I saw another agent talk about giving an edit letter to an author, and then finding out the author went and took the advice, revised the MS, then shopped it around to other agents, after all the time Agent Likes-It put into it, without first showing it to her.

I believe all she said about it was something along the lines of "it hurt her feelings," but it definitely strikes me as rude. That wasn't free advice. It was supposed to be mutually beneficial. If you didn't want Agent Likes-It to rep your MS in the first place, why did they have your MS to give notes on, anyway?

nightsmusic said...

At the risk of being marooned on Carkoon, I have to agree with Lucia here. If the agent put that much time into it, and it's a 50% done deal at this point, I can wait until I hear a yeah or nay providing it stays within the time frame specified. The comment Lucia's Agent Talk mentioned that it 'hurt her feelings' probably went a lot deeper than that such as )%&%&^&*(*)(_gavethedamnedthingawayafterallthatwork but I imagine saying it hurt her feelings was being gracious so as not to look like a raving lunatic.

I could be wrong.

I just think if an agent is willing to put that much time into it, he/she obviously sees something in it to really like and wants to see the MS succeed. So what is three months in the publishing scheme of things.

Colin Smith said...

I dunno... 90 days does seem an awfully long time to make up one's mind on a project one is already interested in--at least enough to ask for an R&R. I'm not an agent, but I can't imagine an agent would ask for an R&R on a project they aren't on the verge of saying "yes" to. And if that's the case, why wouldn't the revised ms go straight to the top of the reading pile? Sure, the writer can spend 90 days working on the next novel. But that writer has probably queried other agents/editors. What if, during those 3 months, other agents express interest? It might be okay to say, "Sorry, an editor has it on exclusive at the moment." But would an agent immediately lose interest? Or would that agent be willing to wait three months?

nightsmusic said...

Except that OPies book probably isn't the only one said agent is working with AND OPie doesn't say how long it took said agent to get back in the first place. Maybe said agent is very popular and took a few months to initiate. We don't really know. But if I received a query and liked what I read then was told by the querier that I'd have to wait three months, I'd move on. Because if it was that good, chances are great the exclusive is going to work their butts off to sign the MS. And if it's really, really great, other agents would have also already expressed interest. (by really great, I'm talking eventual bidding war great)

Lennon Faris said...

I think Janet is taking a more 'this is business' approach (bartering with the one month) and luciakaku and nightsmusic you are taking a more 'this is personal b/c this is my mss, editor likes it, editor helped me,' approach. I think most debut writers (myself included) would sway more towards the second scenario, but it's still really good to hear Janet reiterating that authors have some say in these things too.

OT but following a recent thread: you know how you have dreams where it starts and you've ALREADY done something terrible? Well last night I had a dream that I had just accepted an agent and was meeting her for the first time. She was brash and irritating and told me that first thing, my title just had to go (I love my title). She started listed a bunch of the most generic, boring title ideas she had. I realized then that I hadn't ever alerted other agents that I had received an offer, but had just accepted her already! I couldn't believe it. Then Brash Agent handed me a list of publishers she had already submitted to and said I was being published next Thursday. On the list I saw that one publisher had offered $16 dollars for my mss. In my dream I thought, I cannot believe I didn't listen to Janet. I didn't even ask this Agent any of 'the questions.'

It was the first writing-stress dream I've ever had. Was I ever glad to wake up.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Ok. OP, definitely go with Janet's advice. I imagine an R&R with a publisher is a bit different than an R&R with an agent?

I am working on an R&R for an agent. She did not ask for an exclusive. I reviewed all our emails to be sure. The last exchange I warned her it would take me a while and that I had a full request from a conference that I would also be sending the revised manuscript to, and would that be all right? The agent told me to take my time and to explore any opportunities, but she emphasized that she was looking forward to seeing finished product. Question 1: Should I send this agent my R&R first before next round of queries and sending out the full request? I don't want to burn any bridges.

Next issue. This is an agent that I was introduced to by another author represented by the agency. The owner agent did not like my story at all, but this young agent adored it. She told the senior agent that he just didn't like my genre. Which is true. This is a big and well-reputed agency, but they really haven't done anything in my genre (fantasy). They mostly do romance, historical fiction, literary, and non- fiction plus a smattering of Christian fiction. They have books placed with imprints of big publishers, but none of the big imprints that tend toward fantasy- Ace, Roc, Tor. Should this be a concern if I am the only fantasy writer in an agent's wheel house? There goes that horse out in front of cart again.

nightsmusic said...

No, this isn't a personal approach at all. This is business.

Once the editor or agent has some skin in the game (ie sent an editorial letter) then giving them first crack at revisions is the right thing to do.

I agree with Janet's line completely. Said editor/agent, after having put time into it, deserves first crack at the MS. If the OPie doesn't want to wait 90 days, then it's up to them to negotiate the wait time BEFORE resubmitting. But three months from the resub to a final answer though perhaps that takes into account presenting it for acquisition as well, doesn't seem that unreasonable to me. I do not however, have any idea how many queries were sent, who responded and who didn't, who has seen it already and who hasn't.

Donnaeve said...

This was an interesting question to read. What I've come away with...there seems to be a lot of flavors in the mix of where a writer might land.

Query agents, get an R&R
Query agents, get request for partial
Query agents, get request for full
Query agents, get NORMAN
Query agents, get standard rejection
Query agents, get offer of rep


Query editors (where allowed) directly, and I suppose doing this would result in the same as above with an agent.

From the perspective of how OP lays out the discussion, etc., IMO, it sounds like the editor is really interested. I agree they wouldn't have invested the time otherwise. I say good luck to OP! I hope this works out for you.

For Mark Thurber - BEST ACCEPTANCE SPEECH EVER! Gawd, that was funny. All of you make me so happy. No wonder this place is as addictive as my morning coffee, my afternoon beer(s), my love of chocolate, and on and on.

And I was remiss in congratulating the rest of you out here! All the special recognition, the long listed, and the other short listed. Wonderful reading these entries, and very impressive work by all! Even the ones I don't get. LOL!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I agree with Colin that 90 days is a lot, but it makes a little more sense to me because the author had no specified limit for how long the revisions would take. It could just happen so that the author sends back their ms at the worst possible time for the editor. Although 90 days does still seem a little high.

I wonder how you know which kind of things are negotiable. When are you supposed to push back on something and when are you supposed to accept that X is the way an editor or agent does things?

I guess the answer is to keep reading Janet's posts! Still, sometimes it feels overwhelming to know which 'rules' are rules and which 'rules' are suggestions. (I usually err on the side of caution; all rules are hard and fast, non-negotiable.)

Colin Smith said...

Bethany: "How do you know what's negotiable?" I think my approach would be to just ask. If the agent is interested, and wants to come across to you as someone you want to work with, they will be amiable, professional, and reasonable. They'll tell you what's a deal-breaker, and what's open for discussion. If we, as writers, take the same approach (amiable, professional, and reasonable), I can't see how there would be a problem. But what do I know? I'm not an agent, and I've yet to be in this situation. :)

Amy Schaefer said...

An R&R can be a great thing. It shows that someone in the know not only likes your work, but is willing to put in the time to give you substantial feedback to make your MS better. That is a big vote of confidence. And why wouldn't you try to work with someone who is already interested? But (and I hate to say this) it shouldn't be viewed as a sure thing - an agent or editor can still turn you down after revisions for any number of reasons. Stay cautiously optimistic, which the emphasis on cautiously.

There is nothing wrong with trying to limit the time on an exclusive. You can always ask - the worst that will happen is that the agent/editor will insist on the 90 days. As others have pointed out, this is a business. People will generally behave in a reasonable, business-like way. The agent/editor wants this to work out just as much as you do.

BJ Muntain said...

It's an editor who asked for an exclusive, not an agent. Just to clarify for other commenters, as there seems to be some confusion.

Now, if the OP gives the editor the exclusive for 90 days, and if an agent shows interest within that time period, I think it's perfectly fine to explain to the agent that an editor has this exclusive, and the agent would probably graciously agree. Reasons:

A) It's no skin off the agent's nose if they wait. Yes, they're interested, but they're probably interested in several things, all of which will have to somehow fit into her schedule. So it's not like the agent will HAVE to read the partial/full right away, or even would read it right away. And it's not like there aren't other things going on and other things to read.

B) If the editor says, "Yes", then that's a guaranteed sale. The agent will probably be just as interested to hear what the editor says as the querier is.

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stacy said...

Carolynnwith2Ns, I did something similar just now. I was on Amazon (guilty!) and glanced at a book title. The title was HEIR OF FIRE, but initially I read it as HAIR ON FIRE.

Celia Reaves said...

Stacy: HAIR ON FIRE sounds like something I'd want to read! *saving that title for the future*

Craig said...

I think the biggest thing I can take away from this is to find the right Agent first. This is a question of value and an Agent has more context to weigh the cost/value index against.

You can not judge a value if you know nothing of the true cost. The last two lines of this post tell you the most. An exclusive needs to have a cost basis under it. In this case there is the value of having a good editor make suggestions. In other cases there are other variables. I don't have enough knowledge to know what I haven't yet come across so I will be shooting for finding an Agent to smooth the road for me.

Ninety days seems like a long time but that is just my take. Maybe the OP should have negotiated for a shorter time period but it is too late now. Settle in and wait until those three are gone before querying to get the Agent you already have on your side.

Mark Thurber said...

I'm also a little confused here. I read the post as suggesting the OP was going to contact agents if the publisher made an offer in order to have an agent to interface/negotiate with the publisher on this book. In that case, wouldn't it make sense for the OP to start querying right away, just letting agents know in the query that this editor/publisher would have first dibs on this book?

Donna, I'm glad you liked the "speech"! I think my giddiness yesterday brought out my silliness.

Jerry, that could come in useful. I think I once misreported dolphins that I saw sailing in the South SF Bay as porpoises to Golden Gate Cetacean Research. I felt bad afterward.

Mark Thurber said...

To clarify, I was the one sailing, not the dolphins. They were swimming.

Colin Smith said...

Mark: Is it better to swim with dolphins? Isn't that kind of aimless, swimming without porpoise?

I'll... uh... see myself out.. :)

Mark Thurber said...

Colin, hahaha. See what you've done, now I've hit my three comments and I haven't contributed anything of value.

Colin Smith said...

Mark: Sorry. As you can tell, I'm a master of verbal iceberg lettuce. :)

Christina Seine said...

Congratulations OP on your well-written MS and good luck with the revised version! I think that kind of feedback from an agent is every writer's dream (minus an actual offer).

I have a question for Janet: Sometimes it's hard to tell whether you're getting an actual R&R, or just general interest in a revised version. Or is that the same thing? Are there criteria? If you have to ask is it not an R&R? Am I overthinking this? Is it 5:00 somewhere yet?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Christina, I am wondering the same thing. My R&R definitely seems informal compared to the OP's situation. It is fine if they are different- positive feedback is still great- but I would be curious if there's a distinction.

Karen McCoy said...

I would totally read HAIR ON FIRE! Possible sequels: PANTS ON FIRE, YOU LIAR and WHAT'S THAT SMELL?

I also echo Christina's question, with one of my own. It's possible I'm conflating things, but I was under the impression that agents aren't as interested in something that already has an editor attached. Still true? I'm sure there are nuances to this I'm missing...

Julie Weathers said...

First, a bit of housekeeping. Miss Janet, you have a spammer in yesterday's comments you may want to dispose of before I take advantage of this tremendous offer.

Second to the original questioner, congratulations. That's a huge accomplishment to get that far. I agree it would be a good idea to get an agent before anything is inked with a publisher.

To those wondering why you wouldn't give an agent an exclusive when they give you an R&R, I had a friend who did that. She went back and forth with the agent for five years on R&R's. The agent certainly never asked for an exclusive, but he was her dream agent. On the final submission it's a pass. This was all on the writer and we said this was not a good idea, but, you know, dream agent. She's gone on to another agent and published, so it's all good, but yikes.

Christina, E.M., in my experience, the agent has given specific advice on problem areas they'd like to see corrected and asked me to resend.

The last rejection on Far Rider did not ask for a resend, but gave me very specific feedback. Someday I will rewrite it with those comments in mind and make three books. (He wanted it greatly expanded among other things.) He didn't ask for a resend, but I think if I accomplish what he found lacking he'd look at it again.

BJ Muntain said...

In this case, the editor gave the author an edit letter. That's definitely formal. It's not, "If you change this and this, I'd like to look at it again." It's, "I'll spend hours of my time reading your work and writing up editing notes for you. You agree to give me first dibs."

I'd love that kind of offer from an editor. And if the editor decides to pass, after all that work, the writer has probably benefited more than the editorl.

Kate Larkindale said...

In reply to Mark Thurber, I think the reason you wouldn't query agents while you wait is because agents would rather rep books with a clean slate. If this book is already promised to X publisher if they like it, the agent doesn't get to choose where she thinks the book sits best. And if X publisher is a low-paying indie or e-book only press, the amount of money she's going to make out of the deal may not be worth her while.

InkStainedWench said...

I believe my situation is similar to E.M. Goldsmith's. I got an R&R from an editor who definitely wanted to see an improved manuscript, but was quite vague about details. I would have loved a focused editorial letter.

John Frain said...

Put yourself in someone else's shoes, and the solution often comes down to common sense and manners.

The next step might come down to personal preference. For some, 90 days is an eternity. For others, maybe they look at it with a long-term perspective, 90 days goes by in a flash.

There are scores of things you can do in those 90 days that. Outline and start writing your next manuscript, which you'll want to do no matter how many days you give an exclusive. Write a short story a month and you'll have three stories to submit which might get your name in front of people whether you need to query or whether you'll have a book coming out.

Here's one beautiful by-product of a 90-day exclusive: You can completely move that ms out of your mind. No queries. No revisions. It's GONE for 90 days. You have NO EXCUSE not to get to work writing something else.

So, OP, congratulations on your current status and good luck in your current writing.

Janet Reid said...

Thank you Miss Julie.
I'd pay cash money to see what you term "take advantage of this tremendous offer." Somehow I think fire might be involved.

stacy said...

Celia, doesn't it, though? :)

Janet Reid said...

ok guyz.
Or at least in the same solar system as the topic.
I'm deleting comments that are too far out in left field.

If you see Uranus, you're heading in the wrong direction.

Colin Smith said...

No, I'm not going to bite. No No No. I'm resisting. You can't make me bite. And you all know what I mean.

No. I'm not going to bite "Uranus"...


Fine. Go ahead. Delete...

Christina Seine said...

For the next flash fiction contest, I nominate the following words:

Uranus (or at LEAST solar)

Janet Reid said...

Colin really likes Carkoon, doesn't he?

Colin Smith said...


OK... sorry... I'll go to bed now. And I'll try to stay on-topic tomorrow. Promise!! :D

AJ Blythe said...

I would think an agent would want to work with you to make the ms the best it can be. So, why wouldn't you seek an agent before making the deal?

If no deal is made at what point do you let agents know xxx publisher has already rejected the ms?

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