I like Betsy Lerner’s blog, about the craft and business of writing. Here’s her response to someone who asked how long a writer should wait for a response from an agent to whom the writer has offered an “exclusive submission”:
You are assuming that the agent cares that you made an exclusive submission. If the agent asked you for an exclusive or makes exclusivity a condition of submission then he or she should get back to you in a timely fashion. What is a timely fashion? This is up for debate. I would say 3-6 weeks for a full length manuscript. But if there is no relationship between you and the agent, then there is no need to make the submission exclusive, or to think that by making it exclusive the manuscript will be attended to more quickly. This should be filed under magical thinking…
Right. This is one of the dangers of trying to make money as a writer — especially as a writer of novels. You create your little world, invent crises and dilemmas that demand the intervention of a higher power, which happens to be you.
The more time you spend in this self-created world, the more likely you are not only to fumble relationships with intimates, but also to make bad assumptions about how agents and publishers and the reading public will react to your work. This isn’t true for all writers, of course, but it is for many.
Offering an exclusive to an agent you don’t know indicates lack of perspective, perhaps caused by too much solitude. An agent evaluates your work on the basis of whether or not she thinks she can sell it. You have gone around the bend if you offer an exclusive and imagine the agent will react by sweating over whether your manuscript will become a bestseller if he/she rejects it.
Do some research. Query agents who seem to handle the genre of fiction in which you write. Life, is short, so query more than a few agents at a time.
One of these days I’m going to take my own advice.