Many of you wonder how we agents decide what we want to represent. As you know by now, there’s no single or right answer. Much of it is subjective, especially when it comes to fiction. The business of exclusives is one that many writers don’t understand, and different agents probably do it differently, so I thought this article by Erin Brown from Authormag.com was worth checking out if your’e interested in the subject.
I agree with most of what she says about why an agent would ask for an exclusive, and I understand from the author’s perspective why there are reasons to think twice about granting one. My advice is to always be honest and keep the lines of communication open. If an agent wants an exclusive read on a novel of yours, this is a good thing, especially if it’s an agent you are really excited about working with. If the material is being read by others at the time an exclusive is requested, you need to let them know that and it’s the agent’s choice if they want to jump into the mix on a nonexclusive basis. Most of us thrive on the competitive nature of the business, so others reading a manuscript that I’ve asked for exclusively on will usually get me reading more quickly.
I agree with Erin completely that it’s fair and appropriate to put a timeline on the exclusive. No agent should have an exclusive submission for six months, and even the six to eight weeks she mentions for a novel feels long to me. Two to three weeks should be long enough for an exclusive read, and if the agent hasn’t read in that time, he/she has to be prepared to lose out to another faster reader. We all have a million things to keep us busy, so it’s up to each of us to prioritize those exclusives, and to respond within the promised time or risk losing the submission. Have you ever granted an exclusive read to an agent, and how has it worked out?