Should You Grant an Exclusive Read of Your Novel to an Agent?

Q: I recently had an agent respond to one of my queries and request my full manuscript, but 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, whether exclusive or not, you should consider yourself lucky—they rarely ask for full manuscripts unless they’re sincerely interested. Now requesting an exclusive window of time to read your work used to be more of the norm, but as time goes on it’s becoming less of a standard.

“Unless the agent worked with you on revisions, don’t do an exclusive at all,” says literary agent Mandy Hubbard, founder of Emerald City Literary Agency, representing MG, YA, and romance authors. “I do ask for short 1-to-2 week exclusives if I want to work on extensive revisions with an author, but that’s because I can spend hours writing up 6-plus pages, and I’ve shown more commitment.”

[Here are 4 Things You Need to Consider When Researching Literary Agents]

Some agents, like literary agent Laurie McLean, founding partner of Fuse Literary and ePublisher of Joyride Books, agree that six weeks is much too long and that only a small window (if any window at all) be granted. “I recommend two-weeks at most, though I’ve never asked for an exclusive in my agenting career,” says McLean, “If I want it, I read fast.”

“Six weeks is way too long for an exclusive,” agent Michael Bourret, VP & Literary Agent at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, agrees. “I don’t fault an agent for asking, but a writer shouldn’t feel compelled to say yes, either.” Bourret and McLean say that instead of asking for an exclusive, they share revisions over the phone when they call to offer representation. Hubbard does the same unless there’s something special about the project and the revisions are extensive. Either way, all voiced the same opinion that exclusives should be minimal in today’s publishing world.

“Also,” noted Bourret, “even if someone asks for an exclusive, you can say no and 99% of the time they will still read.”

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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5 thoughts on “Should You Grant an Exclusive Read of Your Novel to an Agent?

  1. riandamimi

    Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their store. I’d prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you don’t mind. Naturally I’ll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

  2. JoyRay

    Hello, thank you very much for this interesting and very needed an answer! I agree with you, and I have the same history in my work! I think that’s very important not stop and try to do something new and something needed, that is why, your time and talent will be remunerated!

  3. Valerie Brooks

    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

  4. Claire King

    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.


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