Four years ago, an agent from a well-known agency ended up hearing about my work from a friend. They hunted me down through Facebook of all things and asked to see my YA manuscript. Ecstatic, I sent it off. They asked for revisions, and then after those revisions, eventually decided to pass, but gave me incredibly helpful feedback and invited me to please reach out to them when I had another project in the works. Skip ahead three years; I have now rinsed and repeated this process with this wonderful, gracious person with two more altogether different projects. Both times, they’ve gotten excited, given some revisions, and then passed, as they have a very selective list. Both times have continued to help shape me as a story-teller and show me where my beginnings in particular struggle, and I owe so much of my evolution as a writer to this person. Being represented by their agency would be a dream.
But. *squeak squeak*
Each time I package up a new book and send it off to them, it’s exclusively in their hands for 3-4 months before I get notes on revisions, and then off it goes for another 3-4 months. I decided in each of these cases after the fact to shop it with the other agents on my list. I was asked for pages, shown some interest, and passed. Shake out the shoulders, take a deep swig, try again. And now I have a new finished project that I feel and have been told by beta readers is my strongest yet. I have this agent acquaintance who’s been nothing but enthusiastic and kind about my work, but I know if I continue our years-long e-mail chain, it will mean that this book goes into hold-your-breath mode for another seven months without any other agents’ eyes on it. I don’t want to burn any bridges, and it seems like any kind of in with an agent should be followed through on. But at the same time...should I keep putting all my eggs in one basket? Is it worth it to be painfully patient, or should I be knocking on as many doors as I can? My wee legs are getting tired.
Oh the dreaded exclusive.
If this new work is your best yet, don't send it exclusively to anyone.
I've had a particular writer's work here for three revisions, the most recent of which is January 2020. I'm hoping I'm not lollygagging about too much and lose her to a more nimble agent, but that's MY risk, not hers.
I would NEVER ask for an exclusive, let alone an exclusive of many months because it's NOT in a writer's best interest to do that.
You should never give one unless it's SHORT (a week, ten days at MOST).
You've gotten a lot of help from this agent, and she deserves your thanks, but she does NOT get to hold you hostage, even with golden threads of grateful.