Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Agent Question/Agent Answers

Question of the day: A couple weeks ago you had a post on asking the hard/scary questions of agents or prospective agents. I’m going to be shopping for an agent in a few months, what are these hard questions that I want to be sure to ask?

What questions you ask are going to be strictly individual and most likely determined by how well you click with your agent and how much research you've done. For example, when I chatted with the various agents who offered to rep me, I immediately clicked with one (my current agent) and didn't ask to speak with other clients or references. I trusted my gut. But I know plenty of authors who DO request references, and if you feel most comfortable doing so, then by all means, do it.

But, since you asked, here are some questions off the top of my head that I think are perfectly valid (and good) issues to be raised once you've received an offer of representation:

1) Do you envision this as hardcover or paperback?
2) Do you have other clients who have similar works? If so, did you successfully sell them?
3) How do you envision this book being marketed? (I.e, this will give you an idea if you and your agent are on the same page about the span and scope of the publicity/audience/etc.)
4) How many editors do you typically submit to? What happens if we don't sell the first round?
5) How do you deal with foreign rights?
6) Do you have a film co-agent?
7) I assume you take a standard fee, correct?
8) Do you have any specific imprints or editors in mind? (Some agents won't tell you or won't appreciate being asked, but if you're the type of author who wants a transparent flow of information, then this is a valid question. My agent, for example, asked for my input before she submitted.)
9) How hands-on are you, in terms of editing? Can I expect you to help me polish this or do you like to be handed a finished, ready-to-go version.
10) How communicative are you with your authors? Do you mind being nudged or sharing information or would you rather keep me in the loop on a need-to-know basis?
11) Do you have a contract?

Hmmm, I'm sure that there are plenty of others. Readers with agents, want to chime in? I should stress that I don't think you have to have this list in front of you when you speak with your potential agent: a lot of these things might come up in the conversation, but I do think these are all valid and necessary things to understand about the person who is repping not just your novel but your career.


Cathy Bueti said...

Hi Allison!
Great post. I wish I had seen it when I was starting out. These questions are so important none of which I had thought to ask.

BTW...wondering if you will be getting to my question soon? :)


suzanneelizabeths.com said...

Terrific list, I'd keep it by the phone to refer to during that all important conversation.

Anonymous said...

)9) How hands-on are you, in terms of editing? Can I expect you to help me polish this or do you like to be handed a finished, ready-to-go version

Eileen said...

I expanded the communication question a bit-

How do you typically communicate with your authors? Email/phone? What should I expect as we go through the submission process?

and I asked:

What are you looking for in an ideal author to work with? (this let me know their expectations etc.)

Anonymous said...

Allison, Leah from Prevention (I'm one of her writers too) steered me towards your blog today after I whined to her about my travails of finding an agent to represent my novel, and I'm so glad she did. I'll keep reading, but I can feel myself inching away from the ledge already. Thanks!

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Hi Lia! Step away from the ledge...step away! We're here for support! :) I'm glad that the blog has been of help!