QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Call Part II - Questions to Ask

This is the second part of When the Agent Comes Calling; the first part  was posted on Monday by Elana. First we’ll look at one more set of answers from our panel of agented authors, and then we have a list of questions to help you prep for your own Call!

Our guest list includes Cole Gibsen, young adult author of KATANA, represented by Chris Richman at Firebrand Literary; Lisa and Laura Roecker, young adult sister-authors of FINDING GRACE, represented by Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management; and Leah Clifford, young adult author of REAPERS, represented by Rosemary Stimola of the Stimola Literary Studio.

Q: Did you have a list of questions prepared? If so, can you share some of them with us?

Cole: Absolutely. I received a fabulous list of questions from a wonderful writer, Scott Tracey. He found them at AgentQuery: http://www.agentquery.com/writer_or.aspx .

Lisa: What are your favorite books?

You mentioned revisions, how long does that process usually take? Do you do line edits or just overall comments? How extensive are the revisions?

Do you have any similar books to ours on your list?

Do you have specific editors in mind who you think will like it?

How does the revision process work? Ask about revisions – will you just send us a copy of the MS marked up with suggested rewrites?

Do you prefer to communicate via e-mail? How often will you be in touch when we’re on submission?

Will the current economic environment make it difficult to sell a debut?

When will you decide to give up on an MS? If you can’t sell FINDING GRACE, will you look at other work for us?

Do you have other clients who are a writing team? How did it work?

What questions do you have for us??

Laura: Yes, we had a list. We all understand the process agents take. I mean, we spend every day hoping and praying an agent will process our work! But, I guess I really wanted to hear how each agent worked the process. What does the revision process look like? How long do submissions normally take? When do you give up if editors aren’t biting? Will you consider other work? I think one of our biggest concerns was in regards to communication. How do you prefer to communicate? And how often will you communicate with us?

Leah: I went off the AgentQuery list which you can find here: http://www.agentquery.com/writer_or.aspx . Honestly though, one of the most important questions I asked wasn’t one I planned out, but wound up finding its way into every phone call. I asked what their favorite book was as a child. If they could talk about a book they loved and then have that same level of enthusiasm for my book, that said a lot.

Thanks again Cole, Lisa, Laura and Leah!

Be Ready For Your Own Call!

To prepare for your own Call, you should always thoroughly research the agent on sites like AgentQuery and Preditors and Editors.  In many cases agents list recent sales, whether they’re a member of the Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR), and how big the agency is. If you can’t find that information, of course, you can add it to your list of things to ask about.

Which brings us to…here’s a list of questions you can ask during your own Call! We’ve put these together from all over the web, including the interview above.

How long have you been in business as an agent?

Are you a member of the AAR? If not, do you adhere to the guidelines set forth by the AAR?

How many clients do you represent? [Hint: If they represent 50, they’re not going to have a lot of time for you.]

Who in your agency will actually be handling my work? Will you represent me personally, or will my book be assigned to an associate?

What made you decide that you wanted to represent my work?

Do you feel that the project is ready for submission to publishers, or will I need to make revisions before submission?

If the manuscript needs revisions, how extensive will they be? Will they be small changes, or will I need to make major plot or character changes?

How involved are you in working with your clients in developing ideas?

Which editors or publishing houses do you believe would be a good fit for my book?

What houses that publish my type of manuscript have you placed projects with?

How often will you be in touch when I’m on submission? Do you prefer email contact or by phone? Generally what is your response time?

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

Do you represent your clients on a book-by-book basis, or are you interested in representing future projects as well?

What if I decide to write something in [different genre you’re considering]? Would you represent that book as well? If not, how would you feel about referring me to another agent?

If you can’t sell this manuscript, what happens? Do we revise? Will you look at other work by me? Or am I dropped as a client?

What are your commission rates? [Standard is 15% domestic.]

Do you issue a written agent-author agreement or contract? What is the duration of the contract?
Will you consult with me on any and all offers?

When you receive money for me, how quickly do you pay out my share? Will you issue a 1099 tax form at the end of the year? How do I get my money if something happens to you?

In the event of death or illness, what provisions do you make for continued representation?

What are your policies if we should part company for any other reasons?

What are your questions or expectations for me if I decide to take you on as my agent?

All right, now you're ready for that phone to ring -- no April Fool's joke there!  Good luck!

Dr. Carolyn Kaufman is a clinical psychologist and professor residing in Columbus, Ohio. A published writer, she runs Archetype Writing: Psychology for Fiction Writers and an associated blog. Visitors will find not only articles about psychology tailored to their needs, but they can ask Dr. K their writing/psychology questions. She is often quoted by the media as an expert resource.


Stina said...

These are awesome questions, Carolyn. Between Elana's interview and these questions, I'm now ready for The Call. Now I just need an agent to call. :D

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

This is a tremendously helpful post; I'm printing out the questions so I can really study them. Frankly, I've put so much effort into the querying process that I haven't given enough thought to The Call. (Granted, that hasn't been a problem I've had to face yet. Darn it.)

JC Falor said...

This is a wonderful collection of questions. Thanks for the great resource!

Tess said...

I love this! Thanks for the information - very helpful.

Danyelle L. said...

Thanks so much for the list. It looks to be a very valuable resource. Thanks for all the time you (all) put into this and for sharing. :)

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

Thank you, everybody! So glad this was helpful! :-D

Susie Bramble said...

Wow, what amazing questions! I'm totally going to print them up and post them next to the phone.