I’m a bit ranty today over the ridiculous thing called Exclusives, which means that your hands are tied from querying anyone else until said agent or editor has read your manuscript.
Off the Market
Exclusives suck because the author must take their manuscript off the market just so the agent or editor can read the manuscript without threat of losing it to someone else. Sometimes they’ll ask for a couple weeks or clear up to a month or two.
This is especially egregious if you’ve already sent your manuscript out to other agents/editors. Now you have to contact them and tell them to hold off reading because Ms. I’m-Too-Cool-For-School has requested an exclusive. Not only are you now cooling your heels for that one agent or editor, but you may not even hear back from them. Now what?
If the Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me
You could contact them and ask for an update. What invariably happens is they haven’t even gotten to it and may ask for more time. It’s true that we’re all busy, but I find it bad form to prey on an author’s hope for publication or representation just so we can hog it. It goes against my sense of fair competition.
And after all that, will that agent or editor actually sign you? Sometimes the agent/editor will reject you after you give them a nudge, even though they probably didn’t read it. So what about the others you told to hold off? Will they still be interested, or will they blow you off? The risk is that you’re putting all your eggs into one basket to the exclusion of everyone else, and you may end up the ultimate loser.
You’re Hungry, and We’re Not
What really gets my goat is that agents/editors know authors are eager, so they can ask for exclusives as casually as asking for a margarita. They don’t consider what they’re doing to the author – it’s all about their own convenience, not about fair play (yes I realize that sounded really Pollyanna). Exclusives put a big bump in a level playing field. Not only is the author greatly hindered, but so are the other agents/editors who may love your book.
Is it wise to decrease your odds of being read by many so the exclusive can have first dibs? Who knows? I’d be interested in hearing from those who granted an exclusive and were subsequently signed by that agent or editor. I’d be equally interested in hearing from agents or editors who ask for exclusives.
I guess what bugs me is the thought process that goes into exclusives; the implication is the agent or editor is so busy and important that the earth will topple off its axis if they aren’t granted special dispensation. Ego can be a good thing in this business, but arrogance is a killer. It’s not about us, per se, but the author.
This is a “You snooze, you lose” business. If I lose out because I didn’t jump quickly enough (and I do jump quickly for the most part), then I have no one to blame but myself. What I won’t do is force the author into an agreement that hinders their progress so I can sit on my tushie and read at my leisure…only to possibly reject it a month or two later. Frankly, I’d be embarrassed to sop up someone’s time only to say “no thanks.”
Should I? Dare I?
Do you have to grant an exclusive? No. The problem is that many who ask for them are high rollers, and the author wants to be associated with them so badly that they’ll say yes. A couple weeks isn’t that bad, I suppose, but what if you never hear back from them after prodding them? You have no choice but to forget them and move on. And be that much wiser the next time.
There aren’t too many agents who ask for exclusives and even fewer editors, so chances are you won’t encounter this. The thing to keep in mind is what will you say should someone ask.