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10 Questions to Ask an Agent Before You Sign

Your objective is to hire an agent you can trust with your money, your work, and your future. It's all part of finding your perfect match.

You have spent considerable time trying to create the best impression on potential literary agents. You have done so well that an agent has contacted you—congratulations! The tables are now turned. It is time for the agent to impress you. Your objective is to hire an agent you can trust with your money, your work, and your future. It's all part of finding your perfect match.

(Funny You Should Ask: Oops! I sent the wrong attachment to a literary agent. What now?)

Authors are often so excited about finding representation that they sign an agreement without knowing if the agent is an ideal match. In addition to agreement-specific issues regarding money and terms, there are other questions you should ask before you sign anything. These are your interview questions to which there are no "correct" answers. The purpose of the questions is to obtain information that will help you decide whether the agent is a good fit for you and your work.

10 Questions to Ask an Agent Before You Sign

10 Questions to Ask an Agent Before You Sign

1. How long have you been an agent? Tell me about your path to becoming an agent.

2. Are you a writer yourself? (Writing experience can give an agent a better perspective. However, if they're immersed in numerous projects of their own, it can possibly mean that the agent isn't totally focused on getting your book published.)

3. How many other clients do you represent? Will this stay approximately the same? (Some agents have shortlists and like to keep it that way so they can focus on each client. Others sign many writers in hopes of placing as many books as possible.)

4. Will you be handling my work, or will there be someone else on your staff with whom I will work?

5. Can you tell me about a few recent sales you've made? (Though an agent's track record is important, new agents can make up for lack of experience through enthusiasm, time, and hard work. Also, keep in mind that you can track agents' sales on sites such as Publishers Marketplace, so you may be able to skip this question.)

Quiz It: Arizona by Felice Prager

Quiz It: Arizona by Felice Prager

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6. What publishers do you have in mind for my project?

7. How frequently do you update authors? Do you have a preference for our communication? Will you keep me abreast of where and when my work was submitted—and the outcome? (Don't enter into a relationship with someone whose communication style will leave you frustrated. A good way to determine this is to ask the agent to describe the ideal client. Is this you?)

8. How close is my book to being ready for submission? Do you foresee much editing and rewriting before it's submitted? Will you be working with me on this?

9. What co-agents do you work with for foreign rights, film rights, and other sub-rights? Is there someone in-house who specializes in this? Can you tell me about some recent successes selling sub-rights of a project?

10. Why do you want to represent me? (This will give you a great sense of what they like about you and the project.)

How to Catch an Agent's Interest with Your First Few Pages

This course is designed for writers who are ready to roll up their sleeves and take their opening pages to the next level. Weekly exercises will strengthen skills such as writing strong first lines and experimenting with voice, while weekly lectures will cover topics such as successful market examples and case studies, effective dialogue, and common ‘do’s and don’ts’ of first pages. 

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