Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Scenario #1— You are an unpublished, unknown writer but you have a chance to ask questions of an agent panel at a writing conference. This is a great opportunity to compare and contrast and see different agents up against each other. Some of the questions you might want to ask the group are:
- We are looking at a whole panel of agents—what distinguishes you from the others?
- Name some of the houses you’ve done deals with in the last six months.
- Name a few of the clients you represent.
- Tell us a few of the recent books you’ve represented.
- Tell us why writers need an agent?
- How, and how much, do you interact with your clients?
- What kind of writers will have the hardest time finding an agent to represent them? Why?
- What contract clauses are giving you pause these days?
Scenario #2— An agent has offered to represent you. Now it’s your turn to interview the agent. You need to make sure this is the best fit. Some of the questions you might want to ask are:
- Do you offer a representation contract? (You may want to look at this contract first before making a decision.)
- What is the term of that contract? (Best case– an At Will Contract when either side can end the contract “at will.”)
- Do you represent authors on a book-by-book basis or is your representation a whole-career representation?
- How much commission does your agency charge?
- What do you offer that other agencies do not?
- What will our working relationship look like?
- How do you like to communicate? Email? Phone? Carrier pigeon?
- How often will we be in contact?
- Will I meet with you at writer’s conferences? Are you out and about in the industry? How often do you visit the publishing houses? Do you attend ICRS and/or BEA?
- Do you sell to both CBA and ABA? What percentage?
- What strategy would you employ if I end up with ho-hum numbers and it’s getting harder and harder to get a contract?
- Do you offer help to your clients who also may want to self-publish out-of-print books or to create ebooks and POD books?
Scenario #3— You are in that uncomfortable position of realizing that you and your agent are simply not a good fit. Your career is going gangbusters but you need a different level of representation. You know that if your agent has been with you from the beginning it’s not fair to leave without a compelling reason, but maybe your agent is retiring or doesn’t have the time your crazy career now demands. As you begin interviewing a number of agents, in addition to the questions above, here’s what you may want to ask:
- Can you create a possible game plan for my career? What would you do to take me the next level? (If you are a bestselling author you can expect agencies to pitch a plan to you.)
- How will you help me sort out some of my marketing issues?
- Can you help me develop a team approach?
- Where do you see me in five years?
- What should I be doing now that I am not doing?
So those are just a few questions you may want to ask a potential agent at different stages of your career. And, of course, I’ve only skimmed the surface.
Now it’s your turn: What are some of the questions you’d like to ask?
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