Don’t panic! When you get an email from an agent who suggests The Call, or if an agent happens to call you out of the blue, you need to be prepared. Have your list of questions ready and handily available. Now you’re probably wondering, “what questions?” I’ve saved you the tedium of putting your own list together. Over the last few years, I’ve comprised a list culled from several writer sources. It’s a long list, but comprehensive. Some questions you may not care about, but it’s a starting point to keep you on track when your nerves are shot as you realize the next giant step in your Dream is unfolding.
If you’ve done your due diligence before querying the Agent, you should know the answers to some of the questions, i.e. how long the agent has been in business as an agent, if he/she is a member of the AAR, etc. See my Blog article on Searching for Literary Agents for a list of resources to gather your information about the agents you’re querying.
Here’s the list of questions to consider when you get The Call:
- How long have you been in the agenting business? How many clients do you represent?
- Are you a member of AAR? If not, do you follow the AAR guidelines?
- What made you decide to represent my work?
- Are you representing just this work? Or are you interested in representing my future works also?
- Is my project ready for submission to publishers or are revisions required? If revisions are required, what are they?
- What is your read and response times on edits?
- What are your expectations for this book? What is your timeframe to submit to editors? Who do you have in mind to submit to? How soon? Chances of successful sale? Chances of a multi-book contract on proposal? Do you negotiate or just take deal? Do you submit to multiple editors at once? How many?
- What relationships do you have with editors at certain houses? Who are your editor contacts? Are there some houses or editors who won’t work with you or you won’t work with? Why? Who?
- At what point do you follow-up with editors? When do you give up?
- How do you keep your clients informed of your activities on their behalf? Do you go over list of houses/editors PRIOR to submitting? Do you regularly send client copies of publishers’ rejection letters? Do you provide them with submission lists and rejection letters on request? Do you regularly, or upon request, send out updated activity reports?
- What happens if you can’t sell my work? Do we revise? Move on to next work? Drop me as a client?
- How often do you contact me? How often do you want to hear from me? How quickly do you respond to emails?
- What is your approach to providing editorial input and career guidance for your clients or for me specifically? What are you feelings about writing in other age brackets, i.e. YA, or other genres? What is your vision for me, not just this book? What should I work on next?
- Do you want to hear about new projects? Do you want to see proposals, or wait until work is finished? Will you edit and make suggestions? What about when a work is sold—do you offer edits and suggestions on further books in a series, or do you leave things up to me and my editor?
- Do you consult with your clients on any and all offers? Some agencies sign subsidiary contracts on behalf of their clients to expedite processing. Do you?
- Who in your agency will actually be handling my work? Will the other staff members be familiar with my work and the status of my business at your agency? Will you oversee or at least keep me apprised of the work your agency is doing on my behalf?
- Do you have a specialist at your agency who handles movie and television rights? Foreign rights? Do you have subagents or corresponding agents in Hollywood and overseas?
- Does your agency offer help and/or guidance with promotional efforts?
- Do you issue an agent-author agreement? What is the duration? May I review the language of the agency clause that appears in contracts you negotiate for your clients?
- What are your commission rates? What are your procedures and time-frames for processing and disbursing client funds? Do you keep different bank accounts separating author funds from agency revenue?
- What are your policies about charging clients for expenses incurred by your agency? Will you list such expenses for me? Do you advance money for such expenses? Do you consult with your clients before advancing certain expenditures? Is there a ceiling on such expenses above which you feel you must consult with your clients?
- How do you handle legal, accounting, public relations or similar professional services that fall outside the normal range of a literary agency’s function?
- If we should part company, what is your policy about handling any unsold subsidiary rights in my work?
- How do you treat solely created works I sell on my own? What about works I sell on my own to digital or digital-first publishers?
- What are your expectations of me as your client?
- Do you have a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” for your clients that will enable me to help you do your job better?