I’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).
-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?
-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?
-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.)
-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?
-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.