Friday, November 25, 2011

Exclusives on Slush? Oh Hell No.

Paraphrased from a ton of queries:

"I'm sending this to you exclusively. You're the only agent to see this because I know we're such a great fit!"

My (short) response: 


My (long) response:

What are you, NUTS?  

Even if you read my twitter, follow my blog, have met me in real life - you don't know me. You don't know how much time I have, or what other people already on my list are currently in the midst of writing. I reject 99% of what I get. Even if you ARE the 1%... I'll be the judge of that, thanks. Don't presume we are "such a great fit" that you are willing to sabotage your own career on that basis. 

Yes, giving exclusives when they aren't requested IS sabotaging your own career. 

An agent or editor may take weeks, or months, to get back to you. Frankly, they may never get back  to you. They quite rightly prioritize authors that they are actually working with, and some have policies of "no response means no." 

You might think that an "exclusive" will make me speed up. Nope. I read queries in the order I get them. When I get to your slush query a month after you've sent it, that is the first time I have ever seen your name, and you say something like "this is an exclusive submission" -- but why? I had no idea! I didn't ask for that! You were seriously going to wait a month, two months, or FOREVER?? And then send it to one more person? And wait a month or two months or FOREVER??? Noooo!  You will be like Rip Van Winkle at the end of it all. 

And let's say you DO get a favorable response? Let's say I read it and love it and offer. Well great. But you have no idea if I am actually the agent who will love it best. Or let's say that editor says "OK! I'll buy it." But... you have no idea if other offers would be better, and no leverage to improve the offer. Argh. 

I'm sorry to be so keyed up, I am obviously emotionally invested in this. But... I really really REALLY want authors to give themselves a fair shake. I think exclusives are a poor idea and BAD FOR YOU. 

These are the times to give exclusives: 
* When you already work with an editor, and enjoy them, it is totally appropriate to give them the "first crack" at your new work.  
* When you already work with an editor, and this is a project that they have asked for specifically - a sequel, or another work set in the same world as your first, or they've asked you for a book on a specific topic, for example.
* When the agent or editor has worked with you extensively, and given you tons of specific editorial feedback, and has asked you to revise and indicated that they WANT to read it again, and you have revised the book specifically FOR THEM. Then it is totally appropriate to give an exclusive on that version of the manuscript, for a window of time. But all of those factors have to be in play. And you have to TELL the editor or agent that they have x-number of weeks to look. After that point, you are quite free to send the material to other people. 
You notice how NONE of those times are "when you are a slush puppy and nobody knows who you are yet"?