No, no, don't sign up with a secret agent. You need a literary agent!
Today's question is from Deborah Gamble, a Utah-based writer and blogger who is thirteen chapters into her first book.
What does it mean when a literary agent says "no multiple submissions"?
I'd never heard the term but I wanted to make sure that I gave Deborah (and other writers) the correct answer. So I ran the question past someone who until very recently held an extremely senior position with a major Australian publishing group.
This is what I asked. ``Does it mean they don't want you to send a manuscript to other agents? Or does it simply mean that they don't want to to keep bombarding them with the same manuscript?''
The former publisher was just as bewildered as I was. ``I've never heard the term before but I assume it means don't send it to more than one agent.''
So my suggestion would be to make a list of all the agents who deal with the genre you are writing. Then note the ones that say ``no multiple submissions'' and put those ones aside for the moment. Send your manuscript and query letter to all those that do not make the stipulation. It's better to have fifty agents reading your work at the same time than to have just one assessing your manuscript. If they all say no, then you've still got the others to fall back on - one at a time, of course!
All of which brings me to the next question, which I often get asked by aspiring writers.
If I want my work published, do I need an agent?
My answer is always a resounding ``Yes''. This is because some major publishers do not accept manuscript submissions unless they come from agents. It is also because agents are a great litmus test of whether a manuscript has literary value.
There is another significant reason. Despite the fact that most people are multi-skilled, being a good writer is no guarantee that you are an expert when it comes to understanding and negotiating publishing contracts.