Has a literary agent offered to represent you and your book? Congratulations! Below you’ll find a list of questions to ask a literary agent while you’re in the “getting to know you” stage.
At the heart of the agent-writer relationship often lies a legal literary agency contract, so you should find out what you’re getting into before you get into it. While it might not be wise to inundate a prospective agent with too many questions, there are certain things that you should consider asking before you sign any contract.
Please note: some of these questions may be answered on the agent’s website or in other supporting materials. Be sure you don’t ask questions that don’t need to be asked if the information is already available to you!
* How long have you been in business as a literary agent?
No one goes to school to learn how to be a literary agent, but experience within the publishing industry can give an agent the edge when it comes to selling your book. Agents profit from their intimate understanding of editors’ reading preferences, so you’ll want someone who has strong connections. That said, don’t write off new agents. New agents are always hungry for manuscripts, so if you connect with a new agent at an established literary agency, you both may benefit from the partnership. Just be sure to do your homework and ask the right questions!
* What is your experience with this particular book genre?
An agent who only handles romance novels might not have the right contacts to shop a thriller around. An agent might be trying to broaden his or her genre horizons, but you have to ask yourself if you want your book to be the guinea pig. If the agent’s enthusiasm is strong, it might be to your benefit to work with the agent in a genre that he or she doesn’t historically represent. Again, weigh the pros and cons by getting all the necessary information before you make a decision.
* Who will be handling my work within the agency?
Make sure you know who will be familiar with your book and to whom you can go if you have any specific questions down the road. Some agents at bigger companies will assign you to an assistant or a junior agent rather than rep your book personally. However, if you’re working with a boutique agency, you’ll probably be working with the agent you queried. Just be sure you know!
* What is your game plan for this project?
You should always be aware of what an agent has in mind for your book, including how the book will be positioned within the larger market and if there is a possibility of selling secondary rights (film, audio, electronic, etc.).
* How often will I be updated on what you’re doing on my behalf?
No one should do anything with your book that you are not aware of. Writers put a lot of trust in their agents, but what’s at stake here is your career. Communication is crucial. Does your prospective agent prefer email correspondence or a phone call for a quick chat every once in a while? Find out ahead of time.
* Are you a member of the Association of Authors’ Representation (AAR)?
You may take heart in knowing that your agent is part of the AAR; however, if an agent is NOT an AAR member, you probably shouldn’t consider it a deal-breaker. The important thing is that the agent is in line with the AAR’s requirements for ethics and handling clients’ funds.
* What are your commission rates?
Anything over 15% on domestic sales suggests less-than-honest business tactics. Ditto to agents who require an up-front “marketing” fee or an editorial fee upon contract signing. See our articles Warning Signs: How To Spot A Bad Literary Agent: Part One and How To Spot A Bad Literary Agency: Part Two for more information.
* What is the minimum time requirement on my contract?
Find out how long you are expected to work with this agent and what happens when one side no longer wants to work with the other.
* How will you be involved in my ongoing career?
Every agent has a different approach to building an author’s career: some are collaborators (working with authors on their projects in a very hands-on way by offering critique), and others are more aggressively involved in the negotiation process. Ask your potential agent how he or she likes to work with clients.
How To Research The Best Literary Agents For Your Book
When And How To Follow Up With (Or Nudge) A Literary Agent About Your Book Query
When A Literary Agent Requests An Exclusive: Solutions For Sticky Situations
In the end, your gut might be your best gauge when considering a literary agent. If after all your questions have been answered and you still feel wary of signing, it may be best to gracefully decline the offer. As nice as it is to be offered representation, proper treatment of your work by a trustworthy agent is paramount.
Writer’s Relief would love to help you find the right literary agent for your book! Our submission strategists can help target your book to distinguished literary agents to find which ones are best for you and your work. For more information about our services, please visit www.WritersRelief.com.
QUESTION: What other questions do you feel are important to ask literay agents?