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Reasons to Hate Exclusives

Yesterday I posted my thoughts on how to handle a request for an exclusive, and since I’m slow at coming down off my soapbox, I wanted to give you my top five reasons for why writers should avoid offering exclusives at all costs.

1. Offering an exclusive limits you to the possibility of working with only one agent. If that agent offers representation you have no other alternatives since no one else is reading your work. Therefore, you might find yourself stuck with an agent who isn’t the right agent for you or your work.

2. Exclusives greatly limit the number of submissions you can make. If every exclusive averages 3-6 weeks, you are limiting yourself to roughly 12 agents a year. At that rate it could easily take you 10 years to find one agent (of course it might take that long anyway).

3. If an agent isn’t aggressive enough to compete for your work with other agents, how aggressive will she be selling your work?

4. An agent with an exclusive is in no rush. She doesn’t have to worry about getting to your work since no one else is doing it. Therefore she can take her own sweet time and you’re stuck with nothing to do but wait.

5. Agents who ask for exclusives still have a 99% rejection rate—they just have it exclusively.


Category: Blog



  1. Ah, my year of reading agent/editor/writing blogs rapidly ended my ‘writing honeymoon’.

    Agents who want exclusives.
    Publishers who hold work captive for up to a year.
    Agents who want fees.
    Numerous agents busted for scams.
    Agents who appear to build their entire career around blogs devoted to slamming, insulting, and in general crushing the dreams of new writers…

    It all has rather a ‘bend over’ tone.

    As I get ready to send my ‘first babies’ out into the cruel world, its good to know there are a few of you out there that still follow that old-fashioned romantic notion of respect.

    I find your blog much more charming than alarming, and always informative.

    Thank You!

  2. Jessica,

    These all seem like one should just use common sense. I think you have an excellent way of showing us the fact that if we would just our heads for thinking sometimes, we would save ourselves the heartache. Alas, not all use their common sense too much – thanks for putting this into perspective of getting an agent. (especially if you only query 12 agents a year or less – that is not a very high rate and like you said, at that rate, may take you 10 years to get an agent – eeek!!!!) –

    I do appreciate the information – thanks for sharing – E 🙂

  3. Jessica,
    I hate to put a name out there but an agent (Ginger Clark) has an exclusive on my partial and would not answer my question about how long she would keep it. She’s a good agent from what I know, so does this apply to her as well?

  4. Anonymous,

    (I’m not BookEnds, but I am represented by Curtis Brown.)

    How long has Ginger had your partial? If it’s been a month, I would suggest sending her a polite, friendly email, letting her know you can no longer offer an exclusive on the partial, but will keep her informed of the manuscript’s status. Then send out more queries.

    For future reference, you should simply tell an agent, “I’m sorry I can’t grant you an exclusive,” and send the requested material, anyway. That’s what I did with Curtis Brown when my agent asked for a 4-week exclusive on my full.

    Now, if you are willing to grant an exclusive to an agent, for whatever reason, you should ALWAYS put a time limit on it. Say “I’m happy to grant you an exclusive on this partial for two weeks.” I know it’s hard because we’re so anxious for agents to “like” us, but you’ll find that agents won’t get “mad” if you set some guidelines.

    Good luck!

  5. No matter how good an agent or an agent’s reputation I don’t think exclusives are fair. If you have granted one to Ginger than you should do as the next poster says. Give her 4 weeks and then kindly let her know that you can no longer grant the exclusive, but you will certainly keep her infomed of any activiity regarding your book.

    Agents who ask for exclusives aren’t necessarily evil, I think they are just asking too much of the author.


  6. Jessica,
    Oh well. The exclusive with Ginger is over. I received a rejection as soon as I got home from a long day at work! That sucks! Oh well, query on!

  7. I have a querying question. Let’s say while querying book 1 I write books 2. No one has picked up on book 1 and now book 2 is ready to be pushed out of the nest to fall or fly. It is acceptable if both books fall within an agent’s guidelines to send a query for each, seperate queries in seperate envelopes with seperate SASEs, to one agent/agency? Or should I wait until one has been considered before sending the next? It is highly probably by this time next year I will have three novels in the submission process. Since they are similar, but not part of a series, would it irritate you as an agent if you recieved them all at once, or consecutively?
    ((I am sorry if you get this twice. I am having blogger issues.))

  8. Great posts on exclusives! We’re featuring this post and yesterday’s on this week’s “Best of the Biz” report on the AuthorMBA blog (


  9. What about if you receive a revision request from an agent? Should your revision automatically be exclusive to the requestor?

  10. On the last book I wrote, Writers House requested a three week exclusive on a partial, and I didn’t know any better, so I agreed. Got a rejection on that, but I used the comments to strengthen my writing. I’d thought all lit agents asked for exclusives. Thanks for enlightening me, Jessica. Now that I’m ready to query book number two, I’ll keep your suggestions on exclusive requests in mind.

  11. The question is: What about if you receive a revision request from an agent? Should your revision automatically be exclusive to the requestor?

    That’s up to you. If you really felt that the revision suggestions were right on target and are excited about what the agent had to say then I don’t think it would hurt to offer a 1-2 week exclusive. But you certainly don’t have to.


  12. Michele Lee–

    If you are sending partials my recommendation is to mention all the books in your cover letter and maybe include a one page synopsis of each book, but only a partial of the strongest book.

    If you are sending a query letter only I think it’s okay to mention all three books.

    While all of that is okay, my recommendation (and personal preference) is that you query only the strongest and most marketable book, but mention that you have the others.


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