Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Great Literary Agent Race, Part 10

So here's where things started getting really cool, really hairy, and really nerve-wracking.

My UPS packet to Jane Dystel was delivered to her office on Friday, August 16. On Monday, August 19, I received an email from Jane, asking for the entire manuscript. Via return email, not via snail mail. And me, being so cool, said, um, yeah, sure, uh, yipppeeeeeeee!!!! No, seriously, I wrote back, 'Thank you so much...' and, anal as I am, asked if docx was okay.

Formatting and technology. I'm such a nerd.

Three days later, she asked for an exclusive.

I wasn't sure what that meant in the agent world, but it sounded damn promising. Normally, I'd research the term 'exclusive' to death. But I was en route to the vet's office, my daughter needed a ride, and I was checking emails on my iPhone. I fired back an email to say I'd queried other agents and hadn't heard anything yet, which was totally true.

Jane then asked for a two-week exclusive, to which I immediately agreed. I mean, what am I, crazy? Hell if I knew exactly what I was agreeing to, but we're talking about a request from Jane Dystel, for crying out loud!! If she'd asked me to jump off a bridge (okay, what mom hasn't used that line on her kids?), I probably would've done that, too. I also agreed to contact all the other agents, to advise them of her exclusive.

Little did I know, until I got back home that night and fired out the promised emails to the other agents, what an 'exclusive' meant (no, I still hadn't researched it -- very unlike me, but sheesh, I was so excited!). I received auto-responses from the vacationing and otherwise-occupied other agents, of course.

I also received three very stern responses from agents, two of whom hadn't even gotten back to me at all over the preceding ten days. Those responses essentially lectured me that (1) I couldn't grant an exclusive when I'd already submitted partial or full manuscripts to other agents; (2) an exclusive inures solely to the benefit of the agent, who is locking out the other agents' ability to compete for the book; and (3) any agent requesting an exclusive is worried about competition, because they aren't A-List agents who can compete without exclusives.

That's when I scrambled to research what an agency exclusive meant. And I found out that, yes, I had screwed up because other agents had, in fact, received my manuscript (reason #1 above). I had therefore committed a big faux pas. But the two-week period, which ran basically through Labor Day, could hardly matter to the vacationers and non-responders, so if it inured to the benefit of Jane Dystel, who'd moved so quickly on my book? Well, more power to her. She SHOULD have an exclusive. And Jane Dystel is on the tippy top of the A-List. So ## 2 and 3 were, as I used to say in my briefs, utterly inapposite.

I clarified to Jane that I'd submitted fulls or partials of the manuscript to other agents whom I'd met at conferences, but that no one had gotten back to me on them yet. I didn't bother telling her that all I'd gotten the far was a lot of grief for granting the exclusive. Certainly no one had told me they had started reading anything I'd sent -- not even the synopsis! So why was I feeling so defensive and worried?

I've since read on many other sites that granting an an exclusive under these circumstances is a bonehead move. And -- something that had occurred to me -- if the exclusive agent rejects the book, everyone else will know about the 'no.' But you know what? NONE of the blogs or posts or comments I've read on the subject has said that the agent asking for a brief, two-week, exclusive, was the amazing Jane Dystel.

And, given that it was Jane, well. I'd do it all over again.

Between August 23 and August 27, all I knew was that Jane had been reading the book. It was a hell of a longgggg weekend. I checked email incessantly. Nothing. I went back and forth with the other three agents, apologizing for my breach of etiquette, wondering if they'd still read 'Client Relations' once Jane nixed it.

On August 27, Jane sent me an offer of representation.