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Should You Grant an Exclusive Read to an Agent?

Categories: Agents, Publishing, Writing Advice.

Q: I recently had an agent respond to one of my queries and request my full manuscript. More interesting, he wants a six-week exclusive read on my book. I don’t want to blow my chance here, but I also don’t want to sit around six weeks only to get rejected and find out I’d wasted time that I could’ve been querying more agents. What should I do? —Anonymous

A: If any agent requests your manuscript, you should consider yourself lucky—they rarely ask for full manuscripts unless they’re sincerely interested. And requesting an exclusive window of time to read your work (and make a decision on it) isn’t unusual either. What is unusual is that writers are often hesitant to grant them the time.

Whether you decide to give the agent the six-week exclusive read is up to you. There are cons: You can’t pitch to other agents and you have to sit in agony for up to six weeks waiting for a response. There are also pros: Someone actually wants to read your work, six weeks for a response is a blessing (with many agents it can take months)—did I mention someone actually wants to read your work?

Keep in mind that it’s not like you have to waste those six weeks sitting by your phone, doing nothing but watching your fingernails grow. You can fill that time preparing queries for other agents (even if you can’t send them quite yet). You can also start writing your next manuscript. At the very minimum you can brainstorm what your next project will be.

If you ask me—and you did—I’d grant the exclusive 99 times out of every 100. The exception would be if two agents request an exclusive at the same time—and any writer should be so lucky. In that case, send your manuscript to both but politely inform each that another agent had requested an exclusive too. Let them know you won’t be sending it out to others, but that your manuscript is with both of them. I don’t either would turn it away so long as you were honest about it.

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6 Responses to Should You Grant an Exclusive Read to an Agent?

  1. Valerie Brooks says:

    Excellent points. First of all, the agent often takes less than six weeks, and even if he/she does, what is six weeks really? And like you said, the writer should use those six weeks in ways to further his or her business. Of course, there’s always the option of just watching one’s fingernails grow.

    Valerie Brooks

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  4. Claire King says:

    I would certainly allow an exclusive to an agent on the full manuscript, and have done, but six weeks to me seems like an awfully long time. I’m not an agent, I’m an author, but I can’t understand what actually happens in a six week period – it doesn’t take that long to read a novel, so presumably it is on a waiting-to-be-read pile for most of it?
    If I had ever been asked for six weeks, my temptation would have been to give an exclusive, but on the understanding that if another agent asked for the manuscript I would come back to the first agent with a polite request to speed up the decision.

  5. Here are some differing perspectives from literary agents Janet Reid and Mary Kole

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