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sirensix
01-13-2006, 03:17 AM
First off... beware of newbie. I apologize in advance for my vast ignorance of agents' day to day lives and business practices. That's why I'm posting here, in an effort to understand better.

I assume the reason for exclusive reads is that it's a bummer for an agent to spend several days reading a manuscript, when they could be evaluating other projects or working with existing clients, and then find out that the writer has decided to go with another agent. That's several days flushed down the hole they can't ever get back.

However - if you look at it from the other side - the writer is giving an agent weeks or months that could be used querying other agents and keeping the process rolling. Considering how long the whole process of selling one's work takes anyway, how is it considered okay for an agent to waste months of a writer's time in order to ensure they don't waste a few days of their own? Also - how is this any more waste of the agent's time than if they decide they don't want to represent the manuscript? This happens all the time - an agent reads a ms and then rejects it. How is that worse (from the perspective of time-wasting) than having the agent read the ms and have the writer reject them?

And here's the other thing that bothers me. I'm violently capitalist at heart, so I believe in competion. By refusing to let other agents consider a manuscript that you're considering, aren't you tying the writer's hands? Putting the writer in an impossible position, where they have no way to compare and see who seems most enthusiastic about their work, who is most likely to help them manage their career, etc.? Agents usually ask for a year contract. Is there another profession in the world that demands you commit to them for a year without seeing what else is out there?

Correct me if I'm missing something here - I must be, as just about every reputable agent out there requires exclusivity in order to read a full manuscript. I'm willing to learn from those who know more about this than I do, so please help me understand.

Unimportant
01-13-2006, 05:00 AM
Usually, when an agent is given an exclusive on a full ms, s/he'll get back to you within 2 to 6 weeks -- a very, very short time in publishing terms.

Exclusives usually apply only to the full ms. You can send queries and partials to a zillion agents at once. If someone asks to see the whole ms, only then is the exclusive likely to apply.

If you feel very, very sure that every agent on your wish list will want to see your full ms and offer you representation, just query your top choice and get an offer from him/her. Easy peasy. I hope for your sake you're that good and that fortunate.

sirensix
01-13-2006, 05:06 AM
2-6 weeks isn't that bad. Especially the 2 weeks part. That I could live with. What was concerning me was all these web sites and market entries saying "expect to hear back in 2-6 months on manuscripts" and so forth. That's just not doable for someone as driven as I am. Why should it take me two years just to show my manuscript to 3-4 agents? If my book isn't right for someone, I want to already be moving on to the next step.

As for the other comment about "being sure every agent on my wish list wants to represent me" or what have you, uh, no. Not a chance.

My question is simply, why can't I have more than one agent reading it at once? What's the down side for the agent, and how is it worse than the down side for the writer (potentially years of lost time) of sending them out one at a time?

Unimportant
01-13-2006, 05:21 AM
2 - 6 month reply times is probably for queries and/or unsolicited manuscripts.

Save postage, and don't send more than three chapters unless they ask for it.

A decent strategy is to send out 5 - 10 queries/partials each month for three months. (Meanwhile, start writing another book.) If, at the end of six months, you've got nothing but rejections and/or no replies, rewrite your query letter and synopsis and begin again. At the end of twelve months, if you've had no luck, start all over again with the new book. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Julie Worth
01-13-2006, 05:32 AM
Exclusives usually apply only to the full ms. You can send queries and partials to a zillion agents at once. If someone asks to see the whole ms, only then is the exclusive likely to apply.

Exclusives are sometimes asked for on partials as well as the full ms. But rarely, in either case. In the case of publishers, this is more common, those few who will look at unagented work. (Tor/Forge, for instance, states they will get back to you on an exclusive partial submission in 4 months or so.)

clara bow
01-13-2006, 05:44 AM
>My question is simply, why can't I have more than one agent reading it at once?



You could, but if an agent asks for an exclusive, it probably means that he/she is very excited by the idea. Of course the whole exclusive thing is purely for the agent's advantage. Read between the lines, though. The agent is saying "I'm excited enough at this stage that I'm willing to read the manuscript faster than usual." That's a good thing.

You could also give the agent a timeframe yourself, and if it's reasonable then you maintain a little bit more control. It depends on the agent and the situation.

dantem42
01-13-2006, 07:39 AM
>My question is simply, why can't I have more than one agent reading it at once?

You could, but if an agent asks for an exclusive, it probably means that he/she is very excited by the idea.

That's true. Some top agents will request an exclusive on any manuscript they ask for (at least from unpublished writers). While it may sound arrogant, the same top agents don't ask for stuff in which they have only borderline interest, because they're so inundated. Try to keep the exclusive to something betweek 2 and 6 weeks, and ask them to advise you promptly (best by email) in the event they don't want to represent you. Send a friendly reminder if you haven't heard anything a week or so before the exclusive is up. That would also be about the right time to bang out another batch of query letters, just in case.

Also remember that when you're approaching a top agent, you're not on equal footing. He/she has already demonstrated a track record in the literary world, while you have not. If he/she agrees to represent you, you are probably already most of the way to getting published.

SRHowen
01-13-2006, 03:57 PM
actually, in my search for an agent I found very few who asked to be the only reader. I did find many that said if others were reading that they wanted to know right of way if I decided to accept representation from someone else.

Chances are you will send out a mess of query letters and not have to worry about over-lapping agents wanting to be the only reader. If you are lucky enough to have several interested then you are in a good position . . .

As to sending them out and waiting forever while you sit and spin--send out 8 to 10 query letters--fix up 8 to 10 more. Send the first bunch, as soon as your SASE comes back, take the top one off the stack of the ones ready to go and put it in the mailbox.

If the agent asks for more then get that ready and add it to the mail box. If they ask for a full, then get that ready and add a note that says---so and so is looking as well--if they ask for an exclusive--I expect to hear back from them in such and such a time, or simply tell them you can't grant the exclusive because---

Shawn

popmuze
01-13-2006, 06:18 PM
Oddly enough, the only agent to ask for an exclusive on my latest manuscript is the only one who never got back to me at all (and, I'm assuming, never will, since it's been ten months).

Realizing I should have demanded some guidelines as to a timeframe, after about four months, with even my follow up emails being unanswered, I wrote an email saying I was starting to send the manuscript to other agents.

And I was recommended to this agent! So in this case, I don't think an exclusive represented heightened interest, only agency policy.

sirensix
01-13-2006, 07:41 PM
Thank you so much, guys. This has been extraordinarily helpful.

waylander
01-13-2006, 09:05 PM
[QUOTE=popmuze]Oddly enough, the only agent to ask for an exclusive on my latest manuscript is the only one who never got back to me at all (and, I'm assuming, never will, since it's been ten months). QUOTE]

Don't assume they'll never reply. I currently have an agent reading my full manuscript 15 months after requesting it. I queried her for New Year and she said she has just started reading it.

sirensix
01-13-2006, 09:58 PM
Yeah, I'm just plain not waiting that long. If they're not interested enough/too busy to read my manuscript with some alacrity, they're not interested enough/too busy to sell me to publishers properly. Whether that's the fault of my writing or their tastes, it doesn't look like it would be a good working relationship.

waylander
01-13-2006, 11:07 PM
Yeah, I'm just plain not waiting that long. If they're not interested enough/too busy to read my manuscript with some alacrity, they're not interested enough/too busy to sell me to publishers properly. Whether that's the fault of my writing or their tastes, it doesn't look like it would be a good working relationship.

Yeah well six other agents have had the manuscript in the meantime and all declined, and I still need an agent

sirensix
01-13-2006, 11:14 PM
My theory would be that you'd be better off representing yourself than being represented by someone who can't even get around to reading a requested ms in 15 months.

popmuze
01-13-2006, 11:17 PM
[QUOTE=popmuze]Oddly enough, the only agent to ask for an exclusive on my latest manuscript is the only one who never got back to me at all (and, I'm assuming, never will, since it's been ten months). QUOTE]

Don't assume they'll never reply. I currently have an agent reading my full manuscript 15 months after requesting it. I queried her for New Year and she said she has just started reading it.

I figured once I took away the exclusive, that would certainly kill the momentum, if any. Of course, you never know. On the other hand, I've rewritten the first fifty pages several times since then.

sirensix
01-13-2006, 11:21 PM
a little OT, but I just got my first go-ahead to send the manuscript (to Harvey Klinger), so I'm very excited.

I'm not THAT excited, though, because I remember all too well what happened when I got excited about my go-ahead to Curtis Brown...

However, if I hear back positively from anyone while Ms. Van De Car is still reading, let's hope they don't require an exclusive. :) I'll also have to advise Ms. Van De Car of the situation if that happens, because while the folks at Harvey Klinger don't require exclusive, they do ask that you let them know if anyone else is reading it.

dantem42
01-14-2006, 07:08 AM
a little OT, but I just got my first go-ahead to send the manuscript (to Harvey Klinger), so I'm very excited.

I'm not THAT excited, though, because I remember all too well what happened when I got excited about my go-ahead to Curtis Brown...

However, if I hear back positively from anyone while Ms. Van De Car is still reading, let's hope they don't require an exclusive. :) I'll also have to advise Ms. Van De Car of the situation if that happens, because while the folks at Harvey Klinger don't require exclusive, they do ask that you let them know if anyone else is reading it.

Congratulations! Be excited! Because if you're not getting manuscript reads, it'll never happen. And many aspiring writers who send off hundreds of query letters never do get a single manuscript read.

If you get another one asking for an exclusive, for me it would depend a lot on who was asking. In any case, I think the best thing to do is to suddenly "go on vacation" for a couple of weeks, try to get an answer from Harvey Klinger and, if they say no, grant the exclusive if the agent is a big name, apologizing for your silence while you were levitating on a Himalayan mountaintop. The agent asking for the exclusive isn't going to disappear right away on you.

sirensix
01-14-2006, 10:04 AM
I think the best thing to do is to suddenly "go on vacation" for a couple of weeks, try to get an answer from Harvey Klinger and, if they say no, grant the exclusive if the agent is a big name, apologizing for your silence while you were levitating on a Himalayan mountaintop. The agent asking for the exclusive isn't going to disappear right away on you.

This is exactly what I was just saying to my husband! I think I'll definitely go with this plan. And if Ms. Van de Car is interested I'm definitely going to go with her - you can't beat a 24-hour turnaround on a query letter!! Seems like she's someone who would be very attentive and enthusiastic. As for the imaginary second agent... I actually am allergic to untruth, so I will probably write something like, "My apologies for my delay in getting back to you - I wasn't expecting such a prompt response!" and leave it at that. Or hey, if the timing is right, I can use my actual cruise to Mexico as an excuse. :)

All the same, if she says no, I have many just as exciting agents out there who are still gigantic question marks. That's the beauty of sending 10 letters out at once. :)

I can't believe people actually send out hundreds of query letters and don't get any positive responses! My average is just insane. I've sent out exactly 7 query letters in my life, and gotten 3 positive responses. These were for 3 different projects. Either I'm really good at writing queries, or possibly just really careful about whom I send them to.

popmuze
01-14-2006, 10:53 PM
a little OT, but I just got my first go-ahead to send the manuscript (to Harvey Klinger), so I'm very excited.

I'm not THAT excited, though, because I remember all too well what happened when I got excited about my go-ahead to Curtis Brown...

However, if I hear back positively from anyone while Ms. Van De Car is still reading, let's hope they don't require an exclusive. :) I'll also have to advise Ms. Van De Car of the situation if that happens, because while the folks at Harvey Klinger don't require exclusive, they do ask that you let them know if anyone else is reading it.


I had a manuscript with one of the agents at Harvey Klinger. Then a second agent, the one I mentioned above, asked for an exclusive. Since the Harvey agent had had my manuscript for a few months by then, I wrote to him to ask what was going on, since another agent was eager to see the manuscript on an exclusive basis.
Sure enough, the next day I got an email rejection. From the tone of it, I had a feeling he'd only read a few pages, probably the night before. He also advised me never to query just one agent at a time.

dantem42
01-15-2006, 06:22 AM
I can't believe people actually send out hundreds of query letters and don't get any positive responses! My average is just insane. I've sent out exactly 7 query letters in my life, and gotten 3 positive responses. These were for 3 different projects. Either I'm really good at writing queries, or possibly just really careful about whom I send them to.

Believe it. One of my mentors is former Editor in Chief of The Mystery Guild, another was her "first reader" who filtered queries for her. In olden days, The Mystery Guild used to allow direct submissions (instead of through agents). She told me that about three quarters of what she received should never have even been written, never mind submitted. It's just a fact that most people are self-delusional about their chances at publishing, mostly because they've either never had someone honest tell them they aren't good enough, or stomped off in righteous indignation when someone did.

Your average is exemplary. A year ago, I had thought my novel was finished after about seven or eight months of writing, and I had one request for manuscript out of about forty queries. Truth was, the novel simply wasn't good enough yet, so after a year of vast revisions and improvements I am running about one in eight.

clara bow
01-15-2006, 06:45 AM
Here's one agent's opinion about exclusivity. One guess as to who the snarky agent is.



You've probably heard this question before. But as a writer eager to upgrade to the title of "bona fide novelist" -while I still have some of my youth- I need to know what's the worst that could happen if I ignore an agent's request to exclusively submit my entire manuscript to them?


Well, when they find out, they throw your manuscript away without reading it.

Or maybe they never find out and they make an offer to you and become your agent, and you're signing your first deal at the bar, and you mention it, laughingly, and your agent's face slackens a bit when she finds out you think that was ok.

I am not a big fan of exclusives. I don't ask for them. I don't think you should send stuff on an exclusive basis for longer than two weeks TOPS on a partial, or a month TOPS on a novel.

That said, if you agree to send submit your work to an agent who asks for exclusivity, and you don't honor that, it says something about the kind of person you are. Is it the kind of thing you want said?
Your choice.


I do kind of like that she's not a "big fan of exclusives." That's such a pro-author stance. Unfortunately, seems like it's a mixed bag out there.

sirensix
01-15-2006, 07:27 AM
<---natural blonde

Who's the agent quoted above?

clara bow
01-15-2006, 10:01 AM
Miss Snark

http://misssnark.blogspot.com/

Snark is her secret identity. I don't know who she really is.

sirensix
01-16-2006, 12:01 AM
Oh! I'd never seen that before. Forgive my rapidly-lessening ignorance of the online writing/publishing community. :)

SRHowen
01-16-2006, 12:23 AM
I don't agree with the if it takes them that long to read my ms then it must take them that long to send it out if they rep me way of thinking.

Clients come first--and as a client an author should expect to come before new submissions.

This biz is not for those with no time to wait---

Shawn

sirensix
01-16-2006, 02:55 AM
Still not convinced. Anyone who is so busy with existing clients that they can't take one day out of fifteen months to read a manuscript they have requested doesn't need to be taking on new clients.

I don't expect people to get back to me in two weeks (though some of them have). But 3-4 months is about maximum, and that only for a real superstar that I'd give my left arm to have representing me. There are too many agents out there for me to plug up the whole process waiting for one. Especially as a new author, I really NEED someone who has the time to devote to getting me "out there" and over the hump of complete obscurity, not someone who's deluged with other time-demanding clients and might get around to thinking about me once a month or so.

Yes, publishing is a slow process. All the more reason that my agent shouldn't ADD to the interminable length of the process by letting my manuscript sit on his desk for a year.