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  • Writer's pictureLiz

Query Guide Part 8: Questions to Ask When You Get an Offer of Representation from a Literary Agent

First, if you’ve received an offer for representation, congratulations. That is huge! Most agents will want to get on the phone before you accept, and if they don’t offer to get on the phone, ask for a phone call. You want to make sure they’re a fit for you, and that can be very hard to parse over email.

The most important thing I want you to remember when going into this conversation is that you are the prize. Not them. It can very much feel like it’s the other way around that of course you’re going to say yes because you want an agent and you want to publish a book and what if no one else offers? But remember: An agent works for you. They make money off of you. Your work pays their bills. And if they’re not going to be a good advocate for your career, then you are better off continuing to query (or writing another book and querying that) than signing with an agent who is a bad fit.

You can do a google search for what questions to ask an agent, but after my experience having had an agent for many years and then leaving them (and in talking to many, many of my authors friends about their agents), these are the questions I would ask:

  • Do you think my book needs edits before we go out on submission? If so, can you give me an idea of how much editing you feel it needs?

  • Are you an editorial agent?

  • If so, what does your editorial process look like, and how long do you take to turn around edits.

  • What is your communication process like? 

  • How quickly do you respond to client emails?

  • Are you available for phone calls?

  • Are you proactive in working with clients or more reactive in responding to emails?

  • How do you plan to sell this book? 

  • Where do you see it fitting into the larger publishing landscape? 

  • Can you tell me a little bit about your connections to editors in my genre and age category? 

  • Who would be the target editors for this book?

  • When working with an author, how hands-on are you in helping guide the direction of their career?

  • What is your process for working with existing clients on new work or ideas? 

  • How collaborative are you in that space?

  • How do you prefer to discuss new ideas / pitches?

  • Do you sell foreign rights in house? If not, can you tell me about your process for that?

  • What percentage of your projects last year also sold foreign rights?

  • Do you work with an established film and TV rep?

  • What are your percentage splits for subrights?

  • What do you think makes you the right agent for this project?

  • Can I talk with a few of your current clients to hear about their experience working with you?

Then, when you get in touch with some of that agents’ clients, I would ask them the following:

  • How do you feel about your agent’s communication style?

  • How quickly does your agent reply to your emails?

  • How quickly does your agent turnaround new projects?

  • How transparent is your agent with the submission process?

  • Do you feel like your agent is hands-on in guiding your career?

  • Has your agent sold any of your projects on proposal?

  • Have you ever felt like your agent has fallen short in any way in being an advocate for your work?

  • Have you ever felt like your agent talks down to you?

  • Do you ever feel afraid to contact your agent?

  • Have you had to navigate selling world rights vs North American with your agent? If so, how did that process go?

  • Would you consider your agent proactive or reactive, meaning do they only reach out to you when you’ve initiated the conversation, or are they proactive in checking on future projects, etc.?

  • Do you know of anyone who has left your agent? If so, are you comfortable with telling me who so that I might be able to reach out to them?

Querying Guide Breakdown:

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