Whether your submitting to agents or editors, you’ll need to understand what the difference is between exclusive and simultaneous submissions.
- exclusive – once you send your work to the agent or editor, you do not send it to anyone else. You wait until you hear back or until the exclusive expires.
- simultaneous – you may send your work to more than one editor or agent at the same time. This is not the same as multiple submissions (though a lot of people misuse this word).
- multiple submissions – sending in more than one work at one time to one place (like cramming in several picture book manuscripts in a submission envelope to an agent). This has nothing to do with this discussion.
What exclusives does for an editor
- assures the editor is the only one looking at your work. What it does for you – nothing.
What exclusives does for an agent
- assures the agent is the only one looking at your work. What it does for you – nothing.
So why should you ever submit something exclusively?
- You want to get published by that company and their guidelines require it.
- You want to extend a courtesy to the editor or agent because he or she personally asked for exclusivity. (BTW, if the manuscript is already out to other people, and an agent or editor asks for an exclusive, kindly let them know you can’t grant them one for this very reason. You’ll be amazed how many agents or editors will still consider your work. Just don’t do the silly thing, which is withdraw your manuscript from all the other people, just so you can grant this one person an exclusive. SO NOT WORTH IT.)
- The editor or agent has already taken the time to look at your manuscript, given you notes, you subsequently revised, and now you’re sending it back to her for review.
Here’s the C LIU rule of thumb on exclusives:
- Granting exclusives for reasons 1-3 is the smart way to use exclusives.
- In all other cases, do not grant exclusives simply because you feel like it. Often the agent or editor won’t care one way or another, and all you’ve done is forced yourself to wait around for an answer. Many editors and agents understand how bad exclusives can be for writers so don’t feel guilty or anything if you mark your submission as simultaneous.
- If you do grant an exclusive for reasons 1-3, set a date for the exclusive to expire. This way you won’t have to status check and wait more to get a reply on your exclusive. Please save everybody some time and energy dealing with your submission. For an agent, this date should be somewhere around a month maximum. For an editor, two months. But the shorter the better. Again, you’re going to hear different answers to this one; this is the C Liu opinion.