Dear Miss Snark,
I posed this question to the "Pub-Forum" mailing list and one of the responses was to ask you.
I am a new writer. I have written my first novel and now am writing my second one.
I have been searching for an agent since last September. This past Tuesday, I received word from an agent that, after reading the first three chapters of my manuscript, this agent would like to see the rest of the book *and* offer me a contract to represent this one book. Now, on the one hand, it's great, finally, to find that one other person to take a chance on you. On the other hand, I was initially taken aback that the agent, having read only three chapters, is willing to go to bat for me having not seen the remainder of the book.
Not really knowing that this agent meant for me to (a) send the entire manuscript AND (b) sign the contract, I replied that I'll send the entire manuscript and, if this agent really likes it and thinks she can sell it, I will inform the other agents to whom I have sent queries/chapters that I have found my agent. I received an e-mail from this agent basically stating that she would not read the rest of the book without me signing an exclusive agreement with her. I have read about exclusivity and, perhaps, this is how it works. I just don't know.
Just in case you missed it the other 767 times I've said it:
I believe they are a bad business practice and are clear demonstrations an agent thinks their time is more valuable than yours. I think it's the sign that an agent is lazy and not willing to make a persuasive case for signing with them. Harsh, but true.
If you send me something and I want you as a client, I don't get you because I refused to let anyone else look at the ms. I get you because I was persuasive about the merits of Snark Central. Now, amazingly enough, this is not all that tough a case for me to make. I may not be persuasive to you but I can certainly make a strong case, and if you want to sign with someone who was more persuasive, you'll figure that out BEFORE we come to a parting of the ways, not after.
I usually say don't do them, but that's your choice, not mine.