Thursday, July 1, 2010

Question from a Writer - On Agents And Submissions

Because you have already rejected my ms I am hoping you may be a safe agent for me to ask this question.

Is it resonable to ask agents to review sample pages before sending a full ms hard copy to them. I have had several agents read sample pages and request the full. I am happy to provide it for them. I have also had several agents ask to just have the full MS sent to them right off the bat. After sending it to three agents who have viewed the sample pages I am feeling the cash crunch.

Also, what is your view on agents asking for exclusives?

These are great questions and I want to make sure we cover all of them. You actually have several issues that I want to touch on.

#1 I may have passed on a project but that doesn't mean stopping. There have been times that the first project doesn't work, but a later project ends up being the right one. If that agent or editor is someone you really want to work with, keep trying. Learn from the comments and find that right project.

#2 You are correct. The money flow with submissions will get up there. Unfortunately there is no way you can work around that one. Now, I can't answer this question for every agent out there. Some want partials, some want fulls, some want hard copies and some want electronic copies. I honestly don't know why some agents and editors ask for a full sometimes. I hear the pitches (when we are at conferences) and I know that piece of writing will never work with that person. It might be the style, the writing, or even the plot, still they ask. I have heard some say that they have found "gems" in some things that didn't sound good in the pitch. That might be the case. Still, in answer to the question, send them what they want. If they ask for a full, there is a chance it was because there was something good. There is a chance you might have enough momentum in the early chapters to get them to that scene that will knock them dead. It is a chance that has to be taken.

I guess I would also say that this is an issue of really narrowing down those agents you might want to work for. You had stated you sent it to three people, and I was one of them. I am assuming I might be on your list of potentials. Were the others? If not, don't send it to those people. Target your submissions.

#3 On to exclusives. I can understand why editors might do this. Some editors might not want to get into a fight with another editor over a submission. It might cost them financially as they bid for something that they could have gotten cheaper. As with agents, IMHO there is no reason to do this. If they are afraid someone will beat them out to a great project, maybe moving it to the top of the stack is the way to go. I know I don't move projects like that. I get to yours when I get to it. But asking for an exclusive has always seemed to me (again, IMHO) as a way to take their time on a project. Hey, if you like it, read it. If you want it, sign it.

I would also say that if someone asks for an exclusive, it is your choice to send it or not. Again, if you have submitted to that person, I have to assume the agent is on your list of agents you would work for.

As for me here at Greyhaus...
  • I only ask for fulls if there is something I really think has that nugget of something I am looking for.
  • I have not moved to 100% electronic yet, but I am working toward that. I have to get my system working the way I want it to.
  • I will never ask for an exclusive for submissions. You can trust that from me.

Hope that helps...



  1. Well...please move 100% electronic. Save the trees and toner cartridges. And us the five bucks in postage :O)

  2. Thanks. The very first agent I ever queried asked for a partial and asked for an exclusive on it. But she also promised to get back to me in a week and did so exactly on Day 8. That was fine by me.

  3. I have seen agents ask for exclusives in their submission guidelines. I could see myself giving an exclusive submission if I absolutely wanted that particular agent (my top choices). At the start of the querying game, a couple of exclusives isn't so bad for the agent of my dreams. But it's rare for a top agent to request an exclusive for an initial query (in my opinion, that is).

    I have heard a couple of suggestions from other writers who have received requests for exclusives after querying.

    If you've already sent your work to other agents, inform the requesting agent that an exclusive is not possible at the time. Send the work anyway and let them know you'll give them two weeks to counter offer if you receive an offer of representation from someone else.

    If no agents have your work at the time, set a time limit for how long the exclusive is available (2 weeks, 30 days). That way the agent doesn't just sit on the work, leaving you no opportunity to continue querying.

    An exclusive is no guarantee for an offer of representation.

  4. I find it wonderfully soothing that you are willing to answer the questions asked by a rejected ms author. That's something you don't see everyday, and this post is informative. Thanks!


  5. Scott,

    Thanks for taking the time to address my questions.

    I kind of laughed because as an unpublished author, even though I do have people that I would prefer to work with, any interest is GREAT!!!

    That being said, I have taken the advice to send my query out in batches. Luckily, I'm still on my first batch, which means the agents that are my first picks.

  6. I intern at a literary agency where we ask for exclusives, precisely because we don't want to waste our time reading a submission if the author has gotten an agent while we had the manuscript. However, our exclusives are only three weeks long because we don't want the writers to lose out on other opportunities. Sometimes the writers already have other agents looking at it; then it's just nice to promise to let us know before moving forward with anyone.