Friday, December 21, 2007

Exclusives are not in your best interest

What is it with exclusives suddenly?

I've had several queriers tell me they haven't submitted to any other agents, or stopped submitting to agents when I asked for pages, or will be submitting their work to only one agent at a time.

Don't do this.

Exclusives aren't good for you, as a writer. It's MUCH better to have several agents vying to represent you so you can choose the best fit. You have no clue if I'm the best match for you if you haven't even talked to someone else.

Second, it doesn't make me read your work any faster. In fact, it makes me LESS likely to read your work because I know there's no competition baying at my heels.

Truthfully, I'd rather win a good fight than take the prize cause no one else was in the ring. I'm fully prepared to tell a prospect why FinePrint is the best agency in town for their work. I'm fully prepared to tell them why I'm the best match.

I don't ask for or expect exclusives. I expect to win the old fashioned way: persuasion. Kinda like the way I expect to sell your manuscript.


Joanne Levy said...

I have granted exclusives voluntarily, but only on my terms and for very short periods. After all the querying I've done, I feel like I do 'know' some agents I would like to work with (eh hem - you included if you repped my current genre and fell in love with my prior work) and don't have a huge problem by giving them the first read out of the gate. But after that, all bets are off.

Thanks for all you do, Janet - and happy holidays!

ryan field said...

Your post here is the best advice anyone could give a writer in any stage of pitching a book.

But when you read that you are getting an exclusive, don't take it too seriously. The odds are you're not.

Josephine Damian said...

I asked this question of several agents, but none have dared to answer:

How do you know that a writer is telling the truth when they say: "Agents X, Y, & Z have offered representation"? What's to stop a writer from lying about this? Do agents call each other to verify offers of representation?

DeadlyAccurate said...

It's kind of like volunteering to cut your own throat when no one's even said they were going to do it for you. I won't (well, wouldn't have) grant exclusive even if the agent demands it (only had one agent have a problem with it.)

The way I figure it, if the writing's good enough, agents will be willing to look at it and fight for it anyway; if it's not, no amount of acting the supplicant will help. And it's not hard for an agent to beat out the other guys when you tell the client, with all sincerity, that you'd be a charter member of their fan club and first in line to buy the book even if they chose another agent.

Merry Christmas!

John Arkwright said...

I prefer to first send queries to a small set of agents who seem to have preferences aligned to my work and who seem good to work with.

Then send out to everyone else.

However, I have heard one author say that this results in the author perfecting the query through mistakes made with the most preferred agents, so that the author stands a better chance with later agents.

TRB said...

This is quite helpful info; I was previously misinformed about exclusives and actually encouraged by another writer not to send a ms. to more than one agent.

What I continually wrestle with is what information I should divulge - if I say, have one full ms. to an agent and then receive another request (or more, with any luck), should I tell all the interested parties that the ms is under review elsewhere, even if no one requests exclusivity? Or should I just assume that if one requests a full, he/she must expect that another agent might do the same? Gah.

Mags said... doesn't make me read your work any faster. In fact, it makes me LESS likely to read your work because I know there's no competition baying at my heels.

Very nicely put.