Given the nature of this blog and my general advocacy of doing research and making informed decisions about literary agents, I've long wanted to do a post on THE CALL, THE E-MAIL or, What to Ask a Literary Agent When Offered Representation. I can't speak from experience yet, but I can give you the list of questions I've been creating for myself. And we can discuss!
A couple notes about the questions before I continue. Depending on the agent, I might already know some of the answers and therefore wouldn't bother asking those questions. I also expect a lot of these questions would run together and be cross-answered naturally, so while it seems like a lot of questions, I don't think I'd have to ask them all word for word. At the bottom, I'm listing out the posts that helped me develop my list.
What do you think of my work? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript? Do you think it will stand out in the marketplace? How ready is it?
Are you an editorial agent? If so, to what extent? What are you thinking in terms of revision? How collaborative are you?
Will I be working solely with you, or will there be times I'll work with an associate or assistant? If so, please elaborate.
How many clients do you have? Are you confident you have enough time and energy to add another client to your roster? If it's not already full, how many clients do you wish to have on your list eventually?
Do you represent clients book by book or on a career basis? Are you confident that we have a great chance of making a career-long match?
Will you work with me on career planning and marketing? Do you work with a publicist?
How much of my genre do you handle? What's your approximate success rate?
What happens if you can't sell this manuscript? What if you don't like my future projects and ideas?
Would you still support and represent me if at some point I wrote outside of my current genre?
Do you have a plan for submission in mind already? Which houses/editors do think will be a good fit for this project? How many editors do you plan to submit to initially, and how many do you plan to submit to overall if it does not sell as soon as hoped?
I know it varies, but what is the expected turn-around time for an editor during the submission process? How long will you allow a project to languish before you'll nudge?
How open are you with information during the submission process? Will you keep me updated as rejections and offers come in? Will I know exactly who you're submitting to at all times? Are you willing to share the rejections with me?
What is your preferred method of communication? How often are you in contact with your clients? How soon can I expect an answer to any given e-mail? How about a revision or new project?
What are your business hours? When do you prefer to be contacted?
Do you have a verbal or written contract? What do the terms and agreements include? What is the duration of the contract? If it's written, would you be willing to go through it word-for-word with me if I felt that was necessary?
Are there any situations where you'd make decisions on my behalf?
If for some reason we need to part ways, how will this be handled? Are there any stipulations I should be aware of? For what reasons would you terminate a client?
If a situation should arise where you are no longer able to represent my work, do you have a plan for me? Or will I need to seek new representation on my own? What if I'm in the middle of the submission process? How would I proceed?
How are subsidiary rights handled within your agency? Would you say your agency is strong in subright sales? Do you see potential for my project in this regard?
What are your commission rates? Are they the standard 15% domestic and 20% foreign/film?
What is your procedure for processing and disbursing client funds? How soon will I receive my share when payments are received? Do you keep different bank accounts for author funds and agency revenue? Will I receive a 1099 at the end of each year? Will I have full fiscal disclosure upon request?
Will you be billing me for any submission costs (supplies, etc)? If so, what should I expect? How will those costs be charged to me?
How long have you been an agent? What do you love about it? Dislike about it?
Generally, what do you expect of your clients in a given year? What do you feel makes for an ideal agent-author relationship?
What are a few of your recent sales?
What if another client and I approached you with a similar idea? How would you move forward in that situation?
Would you allow me to contact a couple of your clients? Specifically, one you've sold at least one project for and one you you've yet to sell for? What about publishers you've worked with?
Do you belong to any organizations? The AAR? Are you listed on Publisher's Marketplace? If so, do you report the majority of your deals to them?
What questions do you have for me?
Here are the posts that helped me develop my list:
"Preparing for THE CALL" at Writers Musings.
"What Can I Expect of My Agent" at Editorial Ass.
"How to Interview a Literary Agent" at Writing for Children and Teens.
"Getting THE CALL" at Rants and Ramblings of a Literary Agent.
"Questions to Ask an Agent" at Rants and Ramblings of a Literary Agent.
"Before You Hire a Literary Agent" by Michael Hyatt.
"Questions to Ask a Potential Literary Agent" at Squidoo.
What do you think? Do you want to discuss any of the questions? Add your own? Talk about your own experience with THE CALL? Please do! Also, if you're interested in writing a guest post about your experience interviewing one or more literary agents before hiring one, please e-mail me.