Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
Last week we discussed THE CALL when an agent says they want to represent you, and I gave you some ideas of what might happen after you’ve accepted representation. But what about before that—when you’re on the phone with the agent? It’s a good idea to have some questions ready so that you can make an informed decision.
There are a few things you should do before the phone call, if you can. Read the agent’s website. If they have a blog, spend some time browsing around it to get a feel for their personality and opinions. Know what genres they represent, and if they have a specialty. See if they list current clients and books they’ve sold. Try not to waste valuable phone time on questions you can get answered from the internet.
Here is a long list of questions you might consider asking. You don’t have to ask all of them! These are just some ideas.
- What are the terms of the representation being offered? Is there a time limit? Is it for one book, or is it open ended?
- If you and the agent agree to work together, what will happen next? (This is what I outlined in last week’s post.)
- Does the agent use a written author-agent agreement?
- What happens if either the agent or the client wants to end the relationship?
- If the agent/client relationship is terminated, what is the policy for any unsold rights in the works the agent has represented?
About the Agent
- How long have they been an agent?
- How long have they been in publishing, and what other positions have they held?
- What are some titles the agent has sold?
- How does the agent keep clients informed about their activities on client’s behalf?
- Does the agent prefer phone or email, or are they okay with both?
- How often does the agent want the client to check in?
- What are the agent’s business hours?
- Does the agent let you know where and when they submit your work?
- Does the agent forward rejection letters to the client?
- What happens when the agent is on vacation?
- Does the agent consult with the client on all offers from publishers? Does the agent make any decisions on behalf of client?
- What is the agent’s percentage? (Industry standard is 15% with exceptions for some sub-rights sales at 20%.)
- Do payments go through the agent first and then get forwarded to author?
- If so, how long after the agent receives advances and royalties will they send them to you?
- Does the agent charge for mailing? Copies? Faxes? Phone calls? Any other fees?
Career and Editorial Issues
- How close is your book to being ready for submission? Will there be a lot of editing and rewriting first?
- Does the agent help with long-term career planning?
- How does the agent feel about authors switching genres?
- Will the agent help you polish your proposal?
- What if the agent doesn’t like your next book?
Please note, these questions are appropriate to ask only if the agent has offered you representation. Don’t grill an agent with questions like this if you’re at a conference, for example.
There aren’t necessarily right answers to all of these, because there are many legitimate ways for agents to do business. Your main goal is to be informed so you’re not surprised by something later.
And one more thing:
Feel free to talk to a couple of the agent’s current clients (like checking references) and it doesn’t hurt to talk to a couple of publishers, if you have access to them. This can help you get a good handle on the agent’s reputation.
How do YOU want to be represented? Are there any other questions you’d want to ask?
Image copyright: lenm / 123RF Stock Photo