Tuesday, September 15, 2009


So lately I've been wondering what happens next. I have one partial and two fulls out with agents right now, but that's the furthest I've gone in this publishing industry so far. It wasn't until very recently (this morning) that I actually started to think: hey, someone might actually want to rep my book. That's pretty cool.

Then I freaked out. Because what if I received The Call and I wasn't prepared? What if I came off as a bumbling clueless idiot-author on the phone because I didn't know what questions to ask?

So I spent the afternoon researching.

Questions to ask a literary agent before accepting representation:
(Compiled from lists on agent Kristin Nelson's blog Pub Rants and agent Rachelle Gardner's blog Rants and Ramblings)


What are the terms of the representation being offered? Is there a time limit? Is it for one book, or is it open ended?

If we agree to work together, what will happen next? What's the expected process?

Do you use a written author-agent agreement?

What happens if either one of us wants to end the relationship?

If the agent/client relationship is terminated, what is the policy for any unsold rights in the works the agent has represented?

Do you handle film rights, foreign rights, audio rights? Or do you have a co-agent that handles these?

Do you work with a publicist? How involved in marketing will you be with this project?


How do you keep clients informed about your activities on client’s behalf?

Do you prefer phone or email, or are they both okay?

How often do you want the client to check in?

What are your typical business hours?

Do you let me know where and when you submit my work?

Do you forward rejection letters to the me?

What happens when you are sick or on vacation?

Do you consult with clients on all offers from publishers? Do you make any decisions on behalf of client?


What is your percentage?

Do I receive payments directly from the publisher, or do payments go through you first?

How long after you receive advances and royalties will you send them to me?

Do you charge any fees for mailing, copies, faxes, phone calls or anything else?


What do you think are the strengths/challenges in regards to this project?

How close is my book to being ready for submission? Will there be a lot of editing and rewriting first?

How involved are you in the editing process, and how long does it take you to edit a project?

When will you start submitting to publishers? When will you stop submitting? How aggressively will you submit?

Do you have any publishers/editors in mind that you think would be appropriate for my book?


How do you prefer to handle future projects? Should I run ideas by you first or can I simply write?

Do you help with career planning? What kind of career guidance do you offer?

How do you feel about authors switching genres?

What if you don't like my next book and you don't want to handle it? What happens then?

* * * * * * * * * *

As we all know (because we are very smart, well researched aspiring authors, right?) you should always research the agent before accepting any offers. I left out some questions relating to how many years the agent has been in business and what the agent's recent sales were, because the answers to those questions are very easy to find online. AgentQuery, Publishers Marketplace, Querytracker.net, the agency website (if they have one) are all great places to check out when searching for agent info.

It is also recommended that you ask the agent for the phone number/contact info on some of their clients. Give one of their clients a call, ask about how they like working with the agent, the agent's strengths/weaknesses, etc.

And since we are professional and polite aspiring authors, we all know that you shouldn't squeal into the phone and shout "YES YES YES I ACCEPT". You want to let the agent know that you will consider their offer, and then you immediately alert any other agents with your work that you have received an offer of rep, and could they please review your work and let you know their decision within a week or so.

Then you do a happy dance.

Have a good evening!



  1. Ooo VERY extensive list! I likey very much!

  2. Great questions. Hopefully we'll all get the chance to ask these one day.

  3. Great questions! And I hope you get "that" call soon! Good luck with your subs.

  4. Great list indeed... I am looking forward to asking these questions, one day.. I do wonder, how long will the agent be willing to leave the offer of representation open, before I accept it?
    thanks for the great post..