Deux de machina

Dear Miss Snark,

How do you explain a delay in submitting a partial to an agent who requested one, when the delay is the result of granting an exclusive to another agent? I don't want to say: "As soon as this other guy rejects me...." I'd also like to avoid lying and pretending I didn't see the email until the exclusive is up.

What's a reasonable thing to say that doesn't make me look like a consolation prize?

All together now: "exclusives stink".
Ok, I feel better.

Best way is just not to mention it at all. When you get a request for a partial you don't have to respond that instant. Unless you are on Page Six and a special prosecutor is preparing to hold hearings about your novel, there's not much that won't wait a week or even two if you must.

Second way is to respond and say the partial was requested on an exclusive basis and you'll send it as soon as you can. Be assured most of us are aware there are other agents looking at stuff.

What we do NOT need is chapter and verse: who asked, how long they want, you'll send it the second they say no.

And don't worry about making us feel like second choice. So few writers have any clue about who is a good agent, or a good match for their work or how to pick one, that every time someone says "my dream agent" I want to smack them.


Anonymous said...

I used "dream agent" in the question email I recently sent you. D'oh! (if you still have time to answer after the smacking I'd really appreciate it)

Anonymous said...

When asked by Agent C for the ms, which had been sent exclusively to Agent S, I said, "I'll send it as soon as it's available."

Exclusives stink.

For sure. Agent S, who had the exclusive, did not read the ms in the time stipulated (even though I gave him an extra three weeks before emailing to ask what was up). With his agreement I ended the exclusive and sent the ms to Agent C, who read it in two weeks and offered to represent me. I emailed Agent S to tell him I what was going on. He said, "I read the book this weekend and liked it" and offered representation.

Guess which agent I chose?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Miss Snark.

SAND STORM said...

That damn Clooney keeps asking if I have a dream agent in mind...

....well George I did but...

Lynne said...

It seems to me that even if a manuscript is out as an exclusive, you can still send out a partial. Things would become tricky if the second agent read the partial and asked for the ms and the first agent still hadn't replied about the exclusive. I'd say it would be good to give the exclusive for only a limited time, eight weeks at the most, after which it would no longer be exclusive. If the second agent reads the partial and asks for the ms, the first agent should be notified that they no longer have an exclusive. Life is too short for exclusives, but I know it is hard to ignore a request for one for a whole ms. IMO sending out a partial doesn't violate that agreement.

When I was searching for an agent, a well-known agent asked for a partial, as an exclusive. I sent the partial, but not as an exclusive. By the time she had passed, months later, I'd signed with someone else.


BuffySquirrel said...

You want to smack them too? We must be more alike than I thought!


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you hate the phrase "dream agent". Every time someone says that, I feel like a nitwit, because I am querying agents who 1) sell stuff to major markets and 2) represent my genre. That's about as far as my dream goes.

ORION said...

ARGGHHH. OK I said "dream agent." BUT it is because she represents me and is funny and kind and great to work with and LOVES my novel.
To me that is my dream agent.
When I was querying she was my "top pick."
It that OK?
A big hand just flew out my screen and smacked me!
That is SO not fair.

Tattieheid said...

Been at the gin pail again?

I agree with you on the description "dream agent", seems to be over used and sounds like a groupie drooling over a filmstar - like George Clooney. You don't have to like your agent just trust and respect their business knowledge and ethics.

Think your comment
"So few writers have any clue about who is a good agent, or a good match for their work or how to pick one"
is a bit harsh. Many writers don't get a choice in the lottery of querying and submissions and take what may be the first or only offer of representation on the table. In those circumstances it takes a brave, cofident and knowledgeable person to say no and go it alone.

The most important thing is whether you and the agent can work together, you can develop a relationship of trust and your agent shares your enthusiasm for your work. In such a case your agent may well land you a deal even with work that's not in their normal sphere of interest.

There is only so much work that a top agency can handle at a given moment in time. Lesser known agencies may have more time to offer and a hunger for success that matches that of a new writer.

All these internet sources are great providers of information but they have limits. As with their writing, an author can only do their best after that luck comes into play.

Michele Lee said...

I just had this problem. I sent out 5 queries while Agent J had a partial so as not to get my hopes up too much with one person. Well Agent S replied first (by about 2 hours) and asked for a two week exclusive. Right behind him were agents V and N. So I granted said exclusive, informing Agent S that a parial was already out and other would like to have a shot as well. The exclusive was easier since he took an electronic version as well. Had he wanted it longer, or by snail mail I wouldn't have done it.

And are agents put off being told they are your top choice??

Anonymous said...

It's posts like this that make this blog so incredibly helpful. Reading this email as an outsider, it's blatantly obvious that you just hold off sending the mauscript to the second agent for a little while and don't offer any explanation - if they even notice the delay, they'll just assume you were away, or your printer died or something. However, I know that if I was in that situation myself I'd be tearing my hair out, agonising over what to do and probably doing something completely nitwitted.

One who knows said...

Yes. let us please kill "Dream Agent" as well as all of its spawn: McDreamy Agent, etc.

Of course you can have your top pick agent while you're clueless and querying, but you would be surrpised, once you have five agents begging to represent you, and even MORE once you are actually offered representation and you get to see what each agent really acts like with regards to your novel, how your priorities and thoughts on the matter will change.