Yes, Exclusives still stink

What would you say is the best way to let an agent who has requested my proposal know that it is currently with another agent? In my query I stated that it would only be shown to one at a time and I intend to keep that promise, yet I don not want to lose the interest of the second agent. What would be an appropriate way to tell him to wait, and that the proposal will be sent once I have heard from the first agent?

Thank you for your time and wisdom.........and a highly entertaining way to spend my workday.

You promised an un-asked-for exclusive?
I highly doubt you've been reading THIS blog if you did that...or maybe you were just reading the snarky posts, not the ones with big red letters that say:


Unless an agent asks for an exclusive, you don't have to promise it. Just ignore what you said in the query letter and send it to the second agent. You're not honor bound to keep a promise that no one asked for.

Agents are not shy retiring wallflower types who have a hard time asking for what they want or telling you what they expect.


delilah said...

"Agents are not shy retiring wallflower types"

Wow, Miss Snark. You sure had me fooled!

Seriously tho, exclusives DO SUCK big time and are so unfair to writers.

tlc said...

What about editors who want exclusives? There are some who will read unagented submissions, but want exclusivity even on a partial.

Is that any more or less fair?
Their response time is generally slower than agents.

Sherry D said...

I suspect that the majority of unpublished writers are under the impression that agents and editors are gentle, tactful people who will nurture them and their work through the publishing process, probably because there are so many gentle, nurturing books out there. But, while the agents and editors may escort the book through the process, I don't picture them as spending much time on the nuturing. It's a job and a business - just like garages where one's car engine is overhauled. Am I too pessimistic?

nlabtn said...

"You're not honor bound to keep a promise that no one asked for."

That's not what my mother taught me. I was always taught that if you make a promise, you stick to your word.

Are you sure you live in NY and not DC?

Anonymous said...

Soon after I posted this question to Miss Snark, I went back and deleted that line from my query. I placed it there based on adive I read in a how to get published book.

Lydia said...

I was alway a b**** about exclusives. *g* I didn't give 'em unless someone explicitly asked, and if they explicitly asked and forget to mention a time frame, I gave them the shortest exclusive that's reasonable--2 weeks for a partial, 1 month for a full. I mentioned the length of the exclusive in my query letter so I didn't have to do any nudging if that missed the deadline.

lizzie26 said...

And don't even ask about exclusives on partials. AGGGHHH! Unfortunately there are some legit agents who ask for it (mostly the assistants). But no writer has to acquiesce to it, either. Politely say "no." Key word: politely. I mean, it's only a partial. Geez.

Anonymous said...

To sherry d: no, you're not too pessimistic; I'd say, realistic. That's not such a bad thing.

To the original poster and lydia: Where in your query letter would you even mention exclusives in the first place? Do you say something like "the ms is available for your exclusive one-month review"? I could see how that might sound good to some agents; as Miss Snark said time and again, it'd probably be better to avoid that whole scene altogether---and only if an agent insists, then would you lay out a specific amount of time.

Lydia said...

>To the original poster and lydia: Where in your query letter would you even mention exclusives in the first place? Do you say something like "the ms is available for your exclusive one-month review"?

NO!!! That would only encourage them to ask for it! I let the editor/agent bring up the exclusive issue. I actually got all three of my requests for fulls that ended up getting me my contract in person/over the phone. The first editor was the executive editor for the line, bless her forever and ever. She didn't ask for an exclusive, and when I went to a conference, I used her interest to get to baby editors really enthusiastic and to get them to request fulls, too--obviously, no exclusive available. I got a multi-book offer within a month of mailing off the mss the day after we met, believe it or not. I didn't know it, but since the two baby editors worked for different imprints of the same publisher, once one offered, the other was not allowed to. So they knew it was a race, and they acted fast as a result! (I ended up getting an offer from two houses, with a standing offer from the third that if I ever want to branch out into another genre, they're interested. :-) )

But I've gotten requests for exclusives by letter. What happens is USUALLY that the agent asked for an exclusive look in the return letter without saying how long they wanted the exclusive to be. In that case, I prepared a Requested Materials package--a cover letter basically thanking them for their interest, a note that I have the original query for their reference as well as the manuscript enclosed, and a statement that they have a two week or one month exclusive, if it was available. If no exclusive WAS available, I would note that. But interestingly, the agents who asked for exclusives were always the first ones to get back to me, so that never happened!