Questions for an Agent

Last week, I talked about the necessity of having questions ready just in case you get THE CALL from an agent. You need to use that time to interview an agent who approaches you BEFORE you accept her offer to represent you. Get to know the agent. Will you like working with her? Are you on the same page? If not, you won’t be happy. A bad agent, one who doesn’t believe in your writing, or one who has a different vision for your work than you do (like you write YA, and she wants you to write adult contemporary romance, because that’s what she reads) is worse than not having an agent at all. So, you need to ask the right questions to determine whether or not this is a good fit.

I’ve compiled a list of questions and separated them into categories: my work, submissions, agent’s experience, agent’s style, and agent’s policies. Because this list is long, we’ll only look at the first three today.

Note: This is just a guide to help you determine the right questions to ask. You don’t have to ask all of these questions, only the ones that work for your situation. And, like last week, I referred to agents as females, but that doesn’t mean male agents aren’t worthy or don’t exist.

My Work:
What do you think of my work? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript? Will stand out in the marketplace? What makes it unique in this market? How ready is it?

What do you like best about my work? What made you decide to represent me? Do you have any other clients with projects similar to mine?

What can I do to increase my book’s chances of selling?

Are you interested in representing my future novels?

Do you have a plan for submissions? When will you submit to publishers? Which houses/editors do think will be a good fit for this project?

How open are you with information during the submission process? Will you keep me updated as rejections and offers come in? Will I know exactly who you’re submitting to at all times? Are you willing to share the rejections with me?

Agent’s Experience:
How much of my genre do you handle? What’s your approximate success rate?

How long have you been an agent? What do you love about it? Dislike about it?

Have you placed projects similar to mine before? If so, where?

In what ways can one of your clients get better terms from a publisher than he would have without your representation?

How do you distinguish yourself from other agents?

How involved do your boss and/or coworkers (if agent is new or belongs to a larger network of agents) get with your projects? How do they assist you?

Next week, we’ll look at questions to help determine the agent’s style.

Note: In order to put this list together, I combined several other lists that I came across over the years. Unfortunately, some of those links no longer work, but I’ll give credit to those that do:

Can you think of other questions to ask pertaining to the writer’s work, submissions, or the agent’s experience that the author shouldn’t already know by researching the agent?

Lynnette Labelle

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