I've spent the last week answering my backlogged email and catching up on queries. I've requested a daunting number of full manuscripts (40 plus) at this point. I plan to spend most of August reading.
I like to do a big reading binge in August because, come September, I'm back doing the selling part of my job--selling the manuscripts I now represent, and several more that I pick up out of the ones I'm now reading.
So, when you hear from me, and you write back "sorry, my manuscript is with an agent on an exclusive until the Feast of St. Clare (the patron saint of sore eyes in case you're wondering)" you've moved way way down the list of things I'll be able to read promptly.
I set your email aside, and if you contact me again, great.
For you now, there are now three possible outcomes:
1. The Exclusive Agency offers to represent you. You say yes or no without knowing if any other agent wants this book, is enthusiastic about this book, sees possibilities for this book that you haven't even thought of. If that's the case, I hope Exclusive is your dream agency. I didn't even get a chance to tell you about the fabulosity that is FinePrint, but ok, that's your choice.
2. The Exclusive Agency doesn't offer to represent you. You're now back in the scrum with me, two weeks later, none the better off.
3. The Exclusive Agency doesn't say a damn thing. You're left wondering what to do, and if it's ok to email me, and fretting yourself.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: Exclusives aren't a good business practice.
Agents who ask or expect exclusives imply their time is more valuable than yours. That's hogwash.
Agents who ask for or expect exclusives imply there's no need to persuade you of the merits of signing with them.
Agents set a lot of parameters to conduct business efficiently: query letter forms; no phone calls; no attachments; the endless list of things done and not done. Exclusives are not only not necessary, it makes the query process less efficient for EVERYONE.
And of course, it puts the writer in an AWFUL position; do you say sure, or do you take a risk? Frankly, were I a writer, I'm not sure I'd want to sign with an agent who put me in an awful position. Don't you want an agent who thinks your time, and your query efforts should be respected? Don't you want an agent who relishes the scrum of competition?
Hell yes you do.
More eloquent words on this can be found here at KidLit