Questions to Ask Your Agent

24 May

mmm chaiI’m currently going through the delightful processes of finding an agent, so I thought it was about time plan for the next step: what to do if an agent offers representation. I know that day is probably a long way away, but I also like to be prepared. So, I asked the agented ladies here at LTWF what questions they asked (or wished they had asked) their agents when they got that first call. I did some poking around the internet too, in hopes of discovering some more questions to ask a prospective agent. And boy did I find them all over the place! I wouldn’t have even thought of most of these myself, which is why I’m devoting this whole post to the topic. Finding and accepting the right agent is a major step and not something to jump into lightly, so make sure you know enough to make an informed decision!

I’m not saying you should ask all of the questions I have listed, or only these questions. And I wouldn’t even dream of trying to memorize them. I plan on having a separate word document on my desktop (easy to find for the panicked) that I can read off (because my brain will shut down and I will probably be incoherent/in disbelief).

Editing

-How much work do they think your book needs? And what kind of revisions?
-Are they an editorial agent that will be involved in the editing process?
-How involved do they want to be in the process; do they want to see each draft or only final ones?
-Will the manuscript be ready for submissions soon?

Submissions

-Which houses/editors do they have in mind?
-How long do they give editors before giving them a nudge?
-Do they do big batches or small ones for each round?
-Do they have a game plan for selling your book?

Communication (came up a lot and I can see how it’s crucial for you and your agent to be on the same page)

-What’s their response time, whether for emails, snail mail or calls? (If it takes a while for them to respond it’s good to know in advance so you don’t have to worry that they’ve forgotten you.)
-How often do they get in touch with clients? (Some agents will check in every week, some will only check in when there’s news. If you are a bit nervous starting out, you’ll probably want occasional check ins just to reassure you that your agent remembers you.)
-What’s the best way to contact them?

Career

-Do they want to help you build a carer/brand or do they want to work with you on a book by book basis?
-Do they have a vision for your career? (Do you have your own vision and do these match?)
-Do they represent all the genres that you think you are likely to write in? (For instance, I need someone who does more than children’s/MG if I have a career agent because the other book I’ve written is YA fantasy.)

Contract

-Will they explain it to you? All the tiny little details? (If you have questions after reading it)
-Do their answers satisfy your concerns/questions?
-Will they explain the publisher’s contract in all its little details?

The Agent

-Does the agent ‘get’ your book? Do you get the feeling that they understand what you’re trying to do with it?
-Why does the agent want to represent you? Do they love your book? Are they excited?
-What have they sold that’s similar to your work? What have they sold in general and recently?
-How many clients do they have?
-Can you speak with their other clients?

Questions I stole from other sites

Casey McCormick’s incredibly helpful/detailed post on what to ask: http://caseylmccormick.blogspot.com/2010/02/call-or-what-to-ask-literary-agent-when.html

-Will I be working solely with you, or will there be times I’ll work with an associate or assistant? (eg. Do they have the interns do some of the revisions?)
-Are you confident you have enough time and energy to add another client to your roster? If it’s not already full, how many clients do you wish to have on your list eventually?
-What happens if you can’t sell this manuscript?
-What if you don’t like my future projects and ideas?
-Would you still support and represent me if at some point I wrote outside of my current genre?
-Will you keep me updated as rejections and offers come in? Are you willing to share the rejections with me? (If you want to see them)
-What are your commission rates? Are they the standard 15% domestic and 20% foreign/film?
-What is your procedure for processing and disbursing client funds?
-How soon will I receive my share when payments are received? (Typically publishers pay agents and then the agent pays the client)

Rachelle Gardner also has a detailed list: http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/05/questions-to-ask-agent.html

-Does the agent charge for mailing? Copies? Faxes? Phone calls? Any other fees?

Ginger Clark’s guest post on Nathan Bransford’s blog gives an agent’s perspective on offering representation and what she thinks clients should do: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/10/guest-blog-ginger-clark-on-how-to.html

Check out those links and make your own list! Let what’s important to you guide what you want to ask. Remember to research the agents beforehand so you don’t have to ask them questions they answer on their websites.

And feel free to share any questions I haven’t included!

~~~

Jennifer Fitzgerald is the author of Priscilla the Evil along with several short stories and another novel on Fictionpress. She is starting grad school in the fall and until then is spending her time revising, querying agents, and doing some archaeology. You can visit her blog here and follow her on twitter here.

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14 Responses to “Questions to Ask Your Agent”

  1. Kat Zhang May 24, 2010 at 8:13 AM #

    What a fantastic list! I’d never had thought of some of these questions. As writers, I think we can get so bent on getting an agent that we forget the agent/writer relationship is a partnership, and we need to choose them as much as they choose us.

    • jenn fitzgerald May 24, 2010 at 7:24 PM #

      Thanks Kat! You’re so right, I think people querying tend to forget that it is a partnership because they just really want to be picked (I know I feel that way, lol)

  2. Meagan Spooner May 24, 2010 at 8:36 AM #

    Wow, what an awesome idea, and such a great list! I know I’ll be bookmarking this post for the future. Having a Word document with questions on the desktop is something I’ve had for a while now, even though I’m NOT querying yet. It’s one of those “when it’s time I’ll be ready” things. :) Such great info, thanks for the post!

    • jenn fitzgerald May 24, 2010 at 7:25 PM #

      Thanks Megan :) I’m impressed at how prepared you are already!

  3. Julie Eshbaugh May 24, 2010 at 9:18 AM #

    Wow, Jenn, great list!!! Anyone considering seeking representation should re-read it several times, because when you find yourself on that phone call, it’s quite possible to forget your own name! :) Of course, you could always tell the prospective agent, “I have a list of questions I’d like to go over,” while you return to this bookmarked page. Any agent worth working with will be happy to answer as many questions as you can ask. Great job Jenn!!!

    • jenn fitzgerald May 24, 2010 at 7:27 PM #

      Thanks Julie! This post probably wouldn’t be here without your input!

  4. Savannah J. Foley May 24, 2010 at 9:36 AM #

    The one about different genres was very important for me, since I can’t seem to stick with one!

    And, of course, no one should be asking ALL those questions, lol! Just pick the ones you really want/need to know, otherwise you become Psycho Questions Writer!

    • jenn fitzgerald May 24, 2010 at 7:29 PM #

      Yeah the genre one is one that has me a little worried too.

      And yes, like everything else, questions in moderation!

  5. Judy May 24, 2010 at 12:59 PM #

    What an informative post! Some very detailed questions that would be interesting to consider when considering an agent.

    • jenn fitzgerald May 24, 2010 at 7:30 PM #

      Thanks Judy, I think reading these types of questions and thinking about them can be really great in helping authors think about what they want in an agent, which would hopefully help them query more effectively.

  6. Rowenna May 24, 2010 at 2:04 PM #

    Great list and links!

    • jenn fitzgerald May 24, 2010 at 7:31 PM #

      Thanks! There were a ton more sites that I could have linked to, but these seemed to have enough questions to keep most people covered :)

  7. Lua May 25, 2010 at 1:34 AM #

    I’m currently revising my first novel and hopefully I’ll start my search to find a suitable agent soon… This was so helpful! Thank you for the list and the insightful post and the links :)

    • jenn fitzgerald May 26, 2010 at 5:06 PM #

      Good luck on revisions!! I hope they go well :) And I’m glad the article was helpful!

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