20 Questions

I’ve talked about the query process in the past, but today I wanted to take it a step further, to the point at which an agent feels ready to reach out and offer representation—something that typically happens over the phone.  This potentially nerve-wracking phone call is a huge step; lest we forget: when an author signs with an agent, he or she should be the person the author feels most comfortable with, both personally and professionally. So this week I wanted to address how to approach this phone call, and in particular the kinds of things one should consider asking when speaking with an agent.

For the most part, it really is personal.  What are you really looking for in an agent? What is your vision for your work? And so on.  But there are also certain questions that I think are important when talking to an agent.

–          How does the submission process work?

–          Do you want to represent just this book or my other work(s)?

–          What are your commission rates?

–          Do you have an agent/client agreement I could review?

At the end of the day, it will really come down to what is most important to the individual person and how personalities mesh, but when an author gets the chance to discuss representation with an agent, preparation is key.

Can you think of other questions you would ask a potential agent?

4 Responses to 20 Questions

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention 20 Questions | Dystel & Goderich Literary Management -- Topsy.com

  2. Lance Parkin says:

    I think there’s a bunch of questions about the agent’s relationship with your book – ones that may well have come up in conversation, but things like:

    – where do you see it fitting in the marketplace?
    – do you represent books like this already?
    – what recent books does it remind you of?
    – what did you like about it?
    – is it ready to go out now?
    – what’s your plan for this book?

    I signed with Jessica a year or so back and her answers to those questions were a lot better than mine, truth be told. There were a number of other agents interested, none of them seemed to like or understand the novel as much as she did.

  3. Kerry Gans says:

    I would not want to sound defeatist or pessimistic, but I think I would also want to know at what point an agent would “give up” on a project.

    There are some agents who will rep a project to the death (or until the author pulls out), and there are some who lose enthusiasm for a project after a certain amount of time or rejections. It is always the best business decision to stop repping if the enthusiasm is gone, but I would want to know up front if that is their philosophy. I would not want to be surprised.

  4. When I was looking for new representation I was in the fortunate position of knowing what hadn’t worked out previously and having multiple offers of representation. Among other questions, I asked:

    1. Do you do career management? Some agents don’t do this, and I knew I wanted an agent who was willing to think about how to position me and my work and how my proposed projects fit with that.

    2. Do you do editorial work? Some agents don’t want editorial involvement, but I knew I wanted an agent who would, if I wanted her to, give me that feedback.

    Most of all, I wanted an agent who would give me her honest opinion and not just take a project and try to sell it. In all my discussions with potential agents, I listened to their answers very carefully to get a sense of that.

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