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I've submitted some of my work to an agent that requested an exclusive submission. They say that after 6 weeks of no contact I can assume a rejection.

My question is this: would I be breaking my exclusive submission if I submitted similar, but not the same, work to a different agent before the 6 weeks have expired?

If it makes a difference, one of the stories that I'd like to submit is in the same world/series as one that was submitted to the first agent.

  • If both got published, would anybody involved think you'd double-submitted? Or are they unrelated (other than being in the same setting/series)? – Monica Cellio Feb 2 '16 at 19:29
  • The characters are related - It's a picture book series that I've been working on for a while, so while the stories are different, the characters are the same. – DoWhileNot Feb 2 '16 at 20:00
  • I'd wait 6 weeks. That's not a long time in publishing. – S. Mitchell Feb 2 '16 at 21:21
  • Just having a conversation with an agent is a big deal. However, this seems like a statement published on her website. Do you have a prior relationship with her? My go to advice columnist for publishing is Jane Friedman who has recommended in these situations to continue to draft query letters. Is she right? I don't know. I've never done the "exclusive" thing. – Stu W Feb 3 '16 at 3:31
  • I have no prior relationship with the agent - this is a slush submission. They request a 6 week exclusive submission - it's listed on the submissions page of their website. I'm not experienced enough with submitting to children's book agents yet to know if that's a common thing or not. Actually that might make a good question here... – DoWhileNot Feb 3 '16 at 3:48
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You never MUST submit to someone who requests exclusive submissions, but once you've done it you should take it seriously. It would be surprisingly good fortune to have the two different books in your series accepted by different agents, but if it happened it could put you in a tough situation.

Given that their window is only a month and a half, I would wait it out, and then pick agents without that requirement for your next round of submissions.

  • Very good point. That would be a rather tough situation. Waiting is hard, but it won't kill me. Thanks. – DoWhileNot Feb 3 '16 at 19:09
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I definitely wouldn't send out the other book that contains the same characters. Rather, I would wait four weeks and then send out your original submission to someone else.

The reasoning behind this is because the last time I submitted something it took a week just to travel across the country and arrive at the publishers office. You can safely assume that the majority of the second week, your submission will be in the slush pile awaiting review. This system will prevent you from crossing the line with your exclusive submission because it is highly doubtful that the second publisher will be calling you the same day or week that your submission arrives at their office. It does however, help you to minimize your thumb twiddling time waiting on a response.

The most important thing that you should do is update your query letter to include the fact that you now have two related books with reoccurring characters. If the publisher allows for simultaneous submissions, you may even be able to send both at once the next time you submit.

Because it is only six weeks, you could even submit your completed second book to the original agent. Have your query letter up to date to include reference to the other title and try to wait the six weeks or at minimum the four weeks before sending to someone else.

Ultimately it is your material and your work so you make the decisions on what to do with it. Try to respect the publisher/agent's wishes, but respect your time too. Try to see through anything that seems overly picky.

Another big, highly important thing is to always stand by your word. If in your query letter you have stated that you are sending an exclusive submission, then they will assume it means for the whole six weeks and thus you need to stand by your word and wait. I generally don't build any false hope with the publisher/agent with that regard. It is best to not have your query letter include any promises that you can't or don't want to keep.

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