10.13.2006

Why Exclusives Stink -more

There's a post several rungs down the rail tonight about a publisher who wants four to six months to review a manuscript, and doesn't take simultaneous submissions.

This is stupid from a business standpoint, and why they haven't realized it, I don't know.

First, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, knows that less than 2% of the work that comes in gets published. This means they're holding 98% of the pool hostage. It's not that hard to sort the crap out in five seconds and respond with a form letter. I do it three days a week and manage to keep up.

Second, good writers will make that publisher their last choice. Frankly, I'd want to be the first choice of every good writer.

Purposely doing things that look arrogant AND inefficient is a patent pending process of the government. You'll probably get sued for infringement, but that's ok. You'll have the papers exclusively for four to six months before a jury of snarling writers gets to decide your fate.

36 comments:

Existential Man said...

"Frankly, I'd want to be the first choice of every good writer...
Purposely doing things that look arrogant AND inefficient is a patent pending process of the government."

While you can see this as it relates to exclusives, you don't seem to see it with regard to not accepting e-mail queries. When you
aren't willing to move at the speed of cyber-space, I don't see anyway you can be either efficient or be the first choice of "every good writer."

If you're talkin' about efficiency and being the early bird to catch the cyber-worm, you simply can't compete with an agent receiving and answering an e-query in a few minutes or having a partial or full sent by e-mail when you are hopelessly lost in doing business by snail-mail.

I once sent a non-ficition query to any agent, got back a "send-proposal" response within two mins, sent it immediately, had it read, and received back an offer to represent--total time: 11 minutes from start to finish. How are you gonna compete with that kind of speed? You can't. My point is simple: In the competitive world of dog-eat-dog (forgive the cliche) agentry, cyber trumps snail every day of the week and twice on Sunday (and Friday the 13th).

Love you, love your dog, but I think you're living in Dinosaur City when it comes to conducting business.

ssc1997 said...

Make books and journals obsolete.
Publish electronically.
Sell e-books.

Anonymous said...

Don't know about publishers in general, but in the genre I'm interested in exclusivity seems to be standard. Of course add that half a year for a review.
In reality I read those submission guidelines as "get agented or get lost".

Ahva Rahn said...

What would he be doing with it? Is he holding the manuscript with eyes closed as if it were a prayer book, shaking it side to side and sniffing it with all the reverence you would give while sampling a good vintage of wine? You might get a response to your post from the publisher himself, but by that stage, you will probably not recognize the context and Scorsese will have already picked up that elusive Oscar.

NitWitness said...

I believe E-Pub is the negative side Hunter S. Thompson was referring to.....

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm in limbo. Submitted query two years ago --- Yes! Send the manuscript. 11 months later I called -- gee, it must have gotten lost, send it again. Sent manuscript -- love it! Passed first reading! Need to send it to second reading, please be patient. Now, seven months later, called -- probably will get read in November, the second-reading people are really backed up.

Helllllooooo?????? HELP!!!!

It's my first book, I want it to be published, it's a publisher who's books I read often...should I get an agent? Is that a nitwit question? Probably (flinch!).

Erastes said...

There are so many of these people out there.

I just don't get it. At you say, I would imagine it takes a page - 3 tops - to decide that something needs a form rejection letter, so six months exclusivity is ghastly.

I admit doing simu subs when I was first submitting because I could not wait four months for a reply just to get a form rejection before I could send out again.

In the end, like existential man, I found a publisher who accepted the ENTIRE manuscript via an online form, and got an acceptance within a day.

I'm doing the "attract an agent" dance now (copied from a Bird of Paradise) and I actively seek those who say "email subs only" as I don't have time for dinosaurs.

Notwithstanding the damage to the planet that 10000s of manuscripts cause - when we could all send them efficiently, relatively safely and in the blink of an eye and not waste any paper at all....

Anonymous said...

And I just used the wrong form of "who's" in my comment, didn't I? That's what ya get for blogging at one o'clock in the morning!

Shouga Tea said...

Frankly, I think Miss Snark is smart. She gets to reduce her crap intake by a lot merely by being selective about her media. I don't see how this is problem, people.
That means when you send her stuff the right way, avoiding all blatent nitwittism (stealth postage inflation aside) you don't have to vie with people who can't, won't, do NOT read the instructions.
[I do not mean to encroach on you turf, Miss Snark; but this is ridiculous.]

nir said...

The only reason I can think of for a six month exclusive is to DRIVE OFF writers. This sounds like someone who's burnt out and fed up with dealing with submissions, and is trying to stop more from coming in.

Not someone I want for an agent.

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

I got caught in the exclusive trap.

I didn't listen to Miss Snark. I didn't negotiate a short review cycle. After ten weeks I sent a polite and professional "three weeks 'til I start shopping again, I hope you are still interested" letter, which prompted an immediate form rejection.

If you squat on somebody's partial for ten weeks, it's my opinion that you owe them at least one sentence of critique. One sentence. Seriously. That would have made the difference to me.

Anonymous said...

wa'supp with AGENTS who want exclusivity? Just wondering!

Snarkle, have a conjecture? (Excuse me -- Miss Snark, that is). Ahhhh....what's in an appellation?

joelle said...

First: not taking e-queries. I'll send 'em if the agent wants them, but stuff gets lost so easily in cyberspace I'd rather snail a query anyway.

Second: I snail queried 3 agents. In my letter, I said that I was querying 3 agents AND one already had a full. Still, I got a request for the first 50 pages as an EXCLUSIVE. I wrote a nice thank you note and sent it on it's way. I wasn't going to pull the other queries for that agent. I'm still waiting on the others, so I don't know if that turned out okay or not, but I feel fine with my decision.

Anonymous said...

How did the terse and clear message of "Exclusivity sucks" turn into a discussion of bird vrs. cyber-worm, e-book pimping, manuscript-sniffing, "Helllllooooo?????? HELP!!!!" and discussions of Miss Snark's (unspecified) media?

Half the comments on this thread (so far) make no sense to me.

Feisty said...

Yay, Miss Snark. I hate the idea of letting any agent or editor hold my manuscript hostage. And it's arrogant to think that you can. Writers are getting smarter. I know of many writers who won't send now to the ones who ask for an exclusive, or they query after sending it to 5 other agents, forcing those agents who want exclusivity to either pass or take it along with the five other agents.

Who the heck has time for this crap?

writtenwyrdd said...

If I were Miss Snark, I would insist on hard copy, too. It's too easy to misread e-text or skim it.

Besides, I have to agree that paper piling up on my desk has more urgency than those 9300 emails in the queue.

writtenwyrdd said...

"Notwithstanding the damage to the planet that 10000s of manuscripts cause - when we could all send them efficiently, relatively safely and in the blink of an eye and not waste any paper at all...."

WTF? Just how is this killing the planet more than the hardcopy books that get published? It's essentially just one more copy of the book, so far as I can see.

Anonymous said...

1. "This book has been printed not published" but of course it has an ISBN number on it.

Are you saying an agent or pub wont consider a book with an ISBN that HAS been POD'd? What about the stories of POD books "discovered"??

Anonymous said...

" I know of many writers who won't send now to the ones who ask for an exclusive, or they query after sending it to 5 other agents, forcing those agents who want exclusivity to either pass or take it along with the five other agents."

Good for them.

I would think that if you have a good manuscript(really, really good), you wouldn't have to send to more than five agents. I know it's subjective and all, about what agents like and dislike. I'm talking about agents who represent books within your book's parameters.

Quality will out. And pretty damn fast.

So if you've gone through a pile of agents already, you might be kidding yourself about how good your masterpiece actually is.

And don't believe what everyone says. Writers talk a lot of baloney amongst themselves. These are the same people who pass around form rejections with a scrawled comment as an "almost as good as an offer."

I am quite sure that if an agent asked to read their manuscript with an exclusive, hopefully within a set timeframe, they'd send it in a minute!

desert snarkling said...

I once sent a non-ficition query to any agent, got back a "send-proposal" response within two mins, sent it immediately, had it read, and received back an offer to represent--total time: 11 minutes from start to finish.

I'm all for improving response times and cutting back on exclusives, but if an agent offers me representation within 11 minutes of reading my query, I both wonder how good an agent she is, and also how she finds time to focus on serving the clients she already has, if she's online so much.

Maria said...

Lots of the publishers that I have looked at have the same exclusivity rule. Yeah, it does stink.

As for mr. existential and the never ending email query complaint...I don't know who Miss Snark is in real life, but if she responds to her quieries in approximately a month or under, she is going to make the top of my list. I'm more interested in return time than I am method. Yes, if you stack her next to the other queries by email, those agents have the opportunity to look faster. However, a lot of them don't accept pages. So by the time they read the query, ask for a partial...the time is about the same.

Each person has got to do what works for them. Miss Snark has mentioned that she doesn't take email queries for a lot of reasons. She does what works for her. Guess that's pretty smart business sense.

Writerperson said...

That's short for responses and I bet they trade exclusivity for prompt responses. Average responses in my case have been 8-9 months and so far my record is one year.

Writerperson said...

Oh, and squatting on a partial for 10 weeks makes you mad, eh? What about six months + on a full?

Termagant 2 said...

I deal with and & all "exclusive" or "no sim-subs" in the following manner:

I ignore it all.

When I had an agent, he was sending my stuff to nine (his number) or six (my number) simultaneously. What difference did it make whether he sent them or I sent them? In the end, absolutely none. We got rejections and losses, in fact his "loss" rate on those submissions he maybe didn't make was higher than mine submitting without him...

Life's too short, people. Send to those who want exclusives if you must, but don't take it seriously. Do what's best for your career and ignore the rest.

T2's $0.02

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark,

I worship at your stilleto heels!

Feisty said...

I would think that if you have a good manuscript(really, really good), you wouldn't have to send to more than five agents. I know it's subjective and all, about what agents like and dislike. I'm talking about agents who represent books within your book's parameters.

Quality will out. And pretty damn fast.


Not always. The Chicken Soup people sent out to hundreds of agents and publishers (or one or the other, I don't remember but I know it was hundreds of something.)

I know of people who got an agent or on the 23rd or 24th.

Existential Man said...

I once sent a non-fiction query to an agent, got back a "send-proposal" response within two mins, sent it immediately, had it read, and received back an offer to represent--total time: 11 minutes from start to finish.

desert snarkling replied...

I'm all for improving response times and cutting back on exclusives, but if an agent offers me representation within 11 minutes of reading my query, I both wonder how good an agent she is, and also how she finds time to focus on serving the clients she already has, if she's online so much.
-------------
Let me answer your question: She is considered a very good, successful agent who now runs her own shop.

Actually, I didn't take her up on her offer, as I had 5 others who also made offers although not as quickly. Many agents LIVE on-line and on the phone so it's not so surprising that quick responses to e-mail queries are possible if they want to snag you.

In any case, I consider the 11 minutes from query to offer to be the all-time Guiness Book World's Record for Literary Agentry and have not heard of anything faster.

DeadlyAccurate said...

I got a request for a partial the other day, and the agent demanded exclusivity. I couldn't give it, and I wouldn't have regardless, not on a partial. I sent the attachment anyway, told her I'd let her know if I received an offer from one of the other agents already reading, and let it go at that. She refused to read without exclusivity, even for the partial. I suppose if I run out of agents to query I'll send it back; haven't had to decide yet.

BuffySquirrel said...

This always makes me laugh. Respond slowly, bad agent. Respond quickly, bad agent. Which bowl of porridge is just right?

We had this at NFG, where writers, who'd previously been complaining about how long it took most short story markets to respond, swiftly changed to whining about how we couldn't possibly have given their stories serious consideration, because we only had them for minutes whereas other markets took weeks...

Sherry D said...

What would publishers do if say, ALL writers simultaneous sub'd. The publishers couldn't do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

What if we all just submitted where we thought was best for us and then got back to writing instead of waiting? I've tried to research agents who've shown an interest in me and all I can find are a bunch of message boards and blogs where people complain about how long they take (or don't take). I personally send the stuff out and then forget about it and go back to work. Snarky enough for you?

Sparky said...

Anybody who limits to exclusive submissions, won't get my submission. Miss Snark, as you so often do, you hit the nail on the head with this one. It's arrogance and total lack of understanding of what author's go through.

Dragonet2 said...

My only comment is, if you're sending an manuscript in as non-agented, non-solicited manuscript, is that if you're sending to a publisher, six months is a small amount of time. This kind of manuscript goes under the headline of "slush.":

You would not believe the voluem of slush fiction houses receive. I've seen photos of my friends at a certain NY publisher in the midst of their unsolicited slush FOR A MONTH and it's overwhelming. They built a throne out of it. It's a sisyphean mountain that is very difficult to deal with if you (publishing house) agrees to see unsolicited manuscripts.

A good agent gives you a big advantage to get ahead of that slushpile. They give the editors at bigpublisher a break on that farking huge slushpile, the agents know what the editors at partcular houses are generally looking for and can pinpoint your product to the publisher.

Agents are gold. I don't have one yet (BUT I don't have a product that deserves agenting, only short stories so far).

Orhan Kahn said...

I believe it is a great idea. To analyse a whole manuscript and sum it up in five seconds, as you put it, isn't very fair. I understand I may never be published but at the very least I want to hope that someone took their time before rejecting my efforts.

Whatever works.

Inkwolf said...

Someone I met at a critique group said that they had an interested publisher who was asking her to let them keep her book under considerations as an exclusive...for three years.

Three YEARS.

Apparently they saw it as a timeless classic. :p Or they're total wieners.

Anonymous said...

Two agents had my ms for a year each and one publisher took 9 months. Three rejections in nearly three years. Is this a record?