How To Handle A Request For An Exclusive?

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work

How To Handle A Request For An Exclusive?

Postby Down the well » 18 Nov 2010, 08:08

How do you handle a request for an exclusive on a partial when you've already got material out with another agent? My gut tells me to send the pages anyway and let the agent know I'm not in a position to offer an exclusive. If they're still interested they can read the pages, and if not I suppose they can ignore them. Sound reasonable?

I hate exclusives, btw. Don't believe in them at all, but I know a lot of agents still ask for them. What to do?
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Re: How To Handle A Request For An Exclusive?

Postby cheekychook » 18 Nov 2010, 11:04

Down the well wrote:How do you handle a request for an exclusive on a partial when you've already got material out with another agent? My gut tells me to send the pages anyway and let the agent know I'm not in a position to offer an exclusive. If they're still interested they can read the pages, and if not I suppose they can ignore them. Sound reasonable?

I hate exclusives, btw. Don't believe in them at all, but I know a lot of agents still ask for them. What to do?


You should be upfront about the fact that another agent already has the material. Some agents will waive the exclusive policy, others will ask you to submit to them if/when the project is available as an exclusive read. If you do grant an exclusive make sure you get a time frame for how long they will require to read your material. I'm not a big fan of exclusives either, but most agents who request them do at least recognize that they are holding you up if they decide not to take on your work---MOST of them will tell you they need x-number of weeks and will then get back to you. I can't say that I've ever heard of an exclusive on a partial---usually the exclusive requests are attached to fulls---all the more an agent should be able to read a partial quite quickly and get back to you with a yes or no. Congrats on getting another request! Good luck!
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Re: How To Handle A Request For An Exclusive?

Postby kans_007 » 18 Nov 2010, 11:06

Hmm...its a tricky one if you have already sent it out to another agent. Initially I started querying out by saying "I am querying multiple agents but will be happy to give you exclusivity for 4-6weeks if you are interested in reviewing the entire manuscript." But then I deleted the line thinking I may be wasting time waiting for their reply if I offered exclusivity ahead of time.

But to be fair to them, I think it does make some sense for them to ask for exculsivity. Put yourself on their shoes and think: If you were to get 100s of queries and out of them you pick several that you think are worth reading; and eventually after reviewing the manuscript you find out that the person has signed with another agent. Think of all the wasted time and effort! Perhaps it depends on the level of comfort you feel with the agent and how good they are. If they are worth waiting for, I don't see any issue with giving them exclusivity. Plus they are likely to give you a good feedback (even if they reject the work) if they are not feeling rushed. But in this case, since you have already given it out to another agent, I would just be honest and say there is another person reviewing it, but I will be happy to hold of an querying any further until I hear back from both of you, or something like that.

Edit : I agree with Cheekychook above, ask how many weeks they would like to have the exclusivity for.
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Re: How To Handle A Request For An Exclusive?

Postby HillaryJ » 18 Nov 2010, 11:39

I had a similar situation where I had multiple agents reading when another asked for exclusive. I explained the situation and asked if he would like the ms on a non-exclusive basis, or if he would like to wait until those other agents had responded (presumably with declinations). Of course, my hope was that he would waive the exclusive (even though I'd heard he never did). This particular agent opted to wait. I don't believe this would be the typical response. He's an established agent with a large, active stable of authors, and was not so overwhelmed by my query/first pages that he had to have the rest.

I ended up signing with one of the agents who was reading, and never did sent the ms to the agent who requested the exclusive.

Every agent has different opinions. The only advice you should follow is to be honest and protect yourself. Let them know where you stand (the interest of others might spur them to waive exclusivity). And establish a timeline for the exclusive. I recommend a month. If I loved the agent, maybe accept six weeks. But if you are actively querying and receiving interest, there's no reason to bottleneck yourself with one agent if they want an unlimited amount of time to review the ms.

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Re: How To Handle A Request For An Exclusive?

Postby Down the well » 18 Nov 2010, 13:32

Thanks all. I'm finding I'm kind of rusty at this querying protocol stuff (haven't queried for three years).

cheekychook wrote:I can't say that I've ever heard of an exclusive on a partial---usually the exclusive requests are attached to fulls---all the more an agent should be able to read a partial quite quickly and get back to you with a yes or no.


Yeah, I know, I thought it was odd for a partial. The agent asked for three weeks. Not a big deal, but I'm still not able to do it, at least until I hear back from the other agent.


kans_007 wrote: Initially I started querying out by saying "I am querying multiple agents but will be happy to give you exclusivity for 4-6weeks if you are interested in reviewing the entire manuscript." But then I deleted the line thinking I may be wasting time waiting for their reply if I offered exclusivity ahead of time.


I completely forgot to mention this was a multiple submission. See, I'm rusty. Thanks for the reminder. :)


HillaryJ wrote:Every agent has different opinions. The only advice you should follow is to be honest and protect yourself. Let them know where you stand (the interest of others might spur them to waive exclusivity). And establish a timeline for the exclusive. I recommend a month. If I loved the agent, maybe accept six weeks. But if you are actively querying and receiving interest, there's no reason to bottleneck yourself with one agent if they want an unlimited amount of time to review the ms.


I just started querying last week. With the holidays coming it wouldn't be that big of a deal to offer an exclusive between now and the end of the year if it were in my power to do so. I know things are probably going to slow down for a bit anyway. But I just hate tying things up with one person. It's in the agent's interest, but not mine. Grrr. I guess I'll just have to hope this agent is willing to waive the exclusive or else move on.

Off to hit the "send" button and find out. Thanks again for your help.
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Re: How To Handle A Request For An Exclusive?

Postby Mira » 24 Nov 2010, 15:26

I'm late, but I just wanted to say 'good luck!' It's exciting that you're getting these bites, whatever you decide to do with them. :)
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Re: How To Handle A Request For An Exclusive?

Postby Down the well » 24 Nov 2010, 16:55

Thanks Mira. I went ahead and sent the pages to the agent but told them I couldn't offer exclusivity because another agent was reading the ms. Haven't heard back, and probably won't. *shrugs*
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Re: How To Handle A Request For An Exclusive?

Postby Mira » 26 Nov 2010, 14:35

Yes, I think you handled this well. I've read on many agent blogs that most agents are against the exclusive in this day and age, and I've read direct recommendations to authors to refuse exclusive requests. It's just not reasonable given how long most agents take with an MS.

But either way, it's still very flattering. :)
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