Is it routine for agents to charge a fee for reading a manuscript? What does this fee entail?
It is not routine nor a standard practice, but a handful of reputable agents do charge a reading fee. When dealing with an agent who charges such a fee, you should always check her background—what books she has sold recently, who she represents, and if her clients are satisfied. Find out if the agent offers criticism on manuscripts, and if the agent will refund the fee if she agrees to represent you and sells your book. Make sure you know what you’re getting for the fee you pay. And try to determine if reading fees or sales commissions make up the agent’s primary source of income. Obviously, you’d prefer to be represented by an agent who is most successful at selling—not reading.