Exclusives Still Suck, only more so

I'm a nobody - the lowest of the low - unpublished without any citable credentials. But my query is pulling - in a short time I've put out 29 partials and ten have turned into requests for full.

Now my dilemma - I have a request for a partial from a big time agency. A-list agency with a lot of experience selling novels similar to mine. I don't want to get into specifics, but not only does this agency ask for exclusivity, the period of exclusivity requested is open-ended.

I don't want to miss out on the opportunity of having my stuff considered by them, and I think I have two choices:

a- Send the pages without mention to the exclusive thing and let them think what they want.

b- Send the pages with a letter explaining the status of the manuscript at the other agencies and hope they read it anyway.

I lean toward a.

What do you think?

I think exclusives stink.
I think open ended exclusives are insanity.
I think lying smells bad too.

I'd write back and say "yes you are the cat's pajamas and yes I want you to fall in love with my work and think I'm the best client you've seen since Nixon discovered the joys of chasing commies, and I don't want to start what I hope will be a long and profitable relationship with you by telling lies of either omission or commission".

Chances are they will work it out with you.
If they won't, you'll at least know where they think you are on the food chain, and we can all hum O! Planktonian at the next school of fish reunion.


Anonymous said...

I say send it to them, and tell them that while you consider their agency to be one of your top choices, you can't give them exclusivity because the manuscript is already being looked at by other agents.

Then give them a nice complete list of all ten other agents.

I suspect that their eyes will bug out of their heads, and not only will they read your manuscript, they'll read it damned fast - knowing that not only are you hot, but they have serious competition if they want to sign you.

Anonymous said...

My advice: don't give them an exclusive on an open-ended partial under any circumstances. I fell for that some time ago, with the same agency - I think.

Three and a half months after giving them an exclusive on a partial, I politely called and got the little weasel who reads for the agent. He promised me he'd get right on it. Two months later he sent an apology for taking so long to tell me it wasn't for them.

I believe this same agency did this to Gerard Jones over on the everyonewhosanyone website. Look your agency up over there.

Some months after the rejection, I told a person who had been mentoring me what I had done and he said, "Why would they hurry to read a partial on an exclusive. They know you can't send it to anyone else."

My reaction: "Duh!"

Anonymous said...

If this is your dream agency, would it be a good idea to say, 'I can't give you an exclusive because etc etc etc, but I'll give you first refusal if any offers come in'?

I'm only at the second-from-the-bottom rung of the food chain and may not have a clue what I'm talking about, but it seems to me that that might make them a little less likely to go snotty about the non-exclusive thing...

Mark said...

Tell em yes. Promise them anything and hold them to it.

domynoe said...

Like I mentioned earlier, I haven't done the whole novel thing yet, but what Anony-mouse said makes sense to me!

Anonymous said...

I love reading this blog, Miss Snark is so frigging hilarious, she cheers me on sleety days.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Even agents that know you're shopping your stuff around sometimes don't get motivated.

One had a manuscript of mine for four months - they'd asked for the whole thing - and then when I was offered a deal elsewhere they said they were 'surprised'.

Even though I'd told them four weeks that I'd had an offer, though I ended up turning that one down.

But I think it's important to find someone who loves your work enough that it excites them, and you don't want to sign with someone that isn't hungry to make a sale either.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I just had to post because the word verification was "oscooby".

And to say that I agree that the author should let the agency know that exclusivity isn't possible because it is already on ten other agent's desk, per their request. And make sure that this agent knows that they are the top choice and I'm freakishly jealous that I don't have this same problem.

Rhonda Helms said...

I think honesty is the best policy, like some others posted on here.

Also, I don't think a list of the other agents reviewing the manuscript will help matters, but that's just my opinion. I'd love to hear an agent pipe in and comment on whether that's effective or not.

ps - my word verification was "mqpfqfdg", which isn't nearly as cool or pronouncable as "oscooby."

Anonymous said...

Last month five agents asked me for partials or fulls, and two wanted exclusives. When I e-mailed back that other agents were already looking, one agent opted out, explaining that she never reads in competition with other agents. The other one said, hey, that's okay, we'll look at it anyway. So I guess the responses differ.

I agree with Miss Snark that honesty is the way to go - you wouldn't want to start a relationship on any other footing.

And yes. An open-ended exclusive is insane. I'm appalled at such temerity.


Beth said...

my word verification was "mqpfqfdg", which isn't nearly as cool or pronouncable as "oscooby."

But it does look vaguely obscene.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Regarding "oscooby": I woulda got an agent if it hadn't been for them meddlin' kids.

Feisty said...

I wouldn't give an agent an exclusive. That makes it a one-sided game, doesn't it? It makes the author powerless to market their work.

And what's that about? Why do we have to give up our rights?

I say tell the agent there are others interested. Any who opt out are not for you. There isn't just one agent for you. And top-tier doesn't always mean the best.

You want an agent who gets your work, loves it, and is salivating to sell it.

yossarian said...

Promise them anything and hold them to it? With what? A harpoon?

Not-yet-agented writers don't have the power to hold agents to anything, unless you count the power of nagging, which doesn't really work.

I agree the others: send it, explaining you can't provide the exclusive because 10 others are reading it (I wouldn't bother listing them, though.)

Pepper Smith said...

Regarding "oscooby": I woulda got an agent if it hadn't been for them meddlin' kids.


An open-ended exclusive is insane. I think this would set off warning bells for me. There's no way I would want to sit around forever unable to market my work because of something like that.

My word verification was urvyrcp. My question is, why do they call that a 'word' verification since it's obviously just a random jumble of letters?

Eva said...

Come on, Pepper. You couldn't read that?

Anonymous said...

What a terrific problem you have! Not that being wanted makes it easy when you're not signed anywhere yet. Such a funny business to be in.

spkquet is my word, that I can read.

Ana Lee Kennedy said...

I had a well-known agent holding my full ms for two and a half years! Yes, you read that correctly. After the first 10 months, she moved her office and lost my ms. So I mailed it to her again. Every couple of months we'd speak about the ms. Finally, I told her that I was withdrawing my exclusive to her and shopping it elsewhere while she made up her mind.

Anonymous said...

If you decide to go along with the exclusive look, what's a reasonable timeframe? A month? Two?
Two and a half years is wrong. Did she ever get back to you one way or another?

Anonymous said...

I think Miss Snark has said that two weeks is all you should give for an exclusive - if you have any say in the matter at all, that is.

Marty said...

I cannot imagine sending someone a MS and not hearing from them for years...hahahaha. Did you send it elsewhere also? The open end deal is bad. Set a time limit as nicely as possible. You never know..they may just accept your MS and offer you a million up front...yeah right. I sent mine in and they wanted to do the same thing...After two months I said times up...what do you think? And they said who are you and what are you talking about? I reminded them and they said we will send it back to you in the self addressed box....we didn't get around to reading it yet... ta ta!

Pepper Smith said...

Come on, Pepper. You couldn't read that?

Nah, I'm afraid the last classes I had on reading gibberish were in High School. You know what they say--if you don't use it, you lose it.

Elektra said...

marty--agents never offer any money, much less a million

Another Author said...

Everyone has given you great advice. Send the partial, don't grant the exclusivity--simply say, "I'm sorry I can't grant you an exclusive, but the full manuscript is out with other agents. However, I hope to discuss this with you in the near future." Or something to that effect.

Don't lie. Don't lie. Don't lie.

Lisa Hunter said...

On a totally different subject: If you want people to read your book, you have to have confidence in it yourself. Stop saying, "I'm nobody" and "the lowest of the low." For goodness sake -- you wrote a BOOK! That already makes you braver and more tenacious than the zillions who "have a great idea but just haven't gotten around to finishing it yet."

Show some pride, Snarkling!

Eva said...

Gee, Pepper, I write and read gibberish all the time. Let me translate for you: "urvyrcp" is clearly the French word for "goodbye" with a hiccup at the end.

Anonymous said...

I had the same thing happen last week. I mailed the full to the agent, and in the cover letter said I couldn't give an exclusive because the full was already requested by other agents, but if I did receive an offer of representation I'd let her know. You should read Deb LeBlanc's blog from Monday at www.murdershewrites.com about getting an agent for her first book. She mentions how she handled it, lol.

Pepper Smith said...

Ah. Thank you for the translation, Eva.