QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are You Ready for The Call?

One of the most exciting -- and nerve wracking -- moments in a writer's life comes when an agent suggests The Call -- otherwise known as a phone call to discuss representation. Particularly if you are lucky enough to have multiple agents interested in representing you, you need to be prepared with questions that will suss out the agent's approach to representation.

Before the Call, you should always research the agent using her agency's site and any social media she uses (you can find those links in QueryTracker).  You may also want to check out AgentQuery, Publisher's Marketplace, 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.

To help you prepare further, here's a big list of questions to consider asking, cobbled together from around the web!

  1. How long have you been in business as an agent?
  2. Are you a member of the AAR? If not, do you adhere to the guidelines set forth by the AAR?
  3. How many clients do you represent? [Hint: If they represent 50, they’re not going to have a lot of time for you.]
  4. Who in your agency will actually be handling my work? Will you represent me personally, or will my book be assigned to an associate?
  5. What made you decide that you wanted to represent my work?
  6. Do you feel that the project is ready for submission to publishers, or will I need to make revisions before submission?
  7. 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?
  8. How involved are you in working with your clients in developing ideas?
  9. Which editors or publishing houses do you believe would be a good fit for my book?
  10. What houses that publish my type of manuscript have you placed projects with?
  11. 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?
  12. What can I do to increase my book’s chances of selling?
  13. Do you represent your clients on a book-by-book basis, or are you interested in representing future projects as well?
  14. 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?
  15. 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?
  16. What are your commission rates? [Standard is 15% domestic.]
  17. Do you issue a written agent-author agreement or contract? What is the duration of the contract?
  18. Will you consult with me on any and all offers?
  19. 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?
  20. In the event of death or illness, what provisions do you make for continued representation?
  21. What are your policies if we should part company for any other reasons?
  22. 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!

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology, check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook!


Stina Lindenblatt said...

Thanks for the list, Carolyn. It's the perfect link for my next week's post. :D

Kristi Helvig said...

Great list--thanks, Carolyn. I also like the threads on Absolute Write for checking out the inside scoop on agencies and specific agents.

Remilda Graystone said...

Oh my God. Thanks for the list! I've been needing this because, even though I've been gathering questions from around the web, I'm getting confused. I've forgotten things and misplaced some links and all that wonderful, wonderful stuff. This post is a life-saver!

Thanks again.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent list! Thank you. I like to have a list of questions in front of me when making such calls or I get flustered.

Tom M Franklin said...

an excellent list! thanks for the summary. it's been copied & pasted for future reference.

-- Tom

Susanne Drazic said...

That is a great list of questions. Thanks for sharing it.

Raising Marshmallows said...

I hope I can make use of this list of questions to ask soon. Thanks!

JD Evans said...

I like the article, very useful questions for someone seeking representation. They all beat my question, which would be: "Who are you and why are you calling me?" followed by "How did you get this number?" ;)

Carolyn Kaufman said...


M.E. Summer said...

Fantastic list! Thanks so much for posting this!