Congratulations! You've been querying for what feels like forever, had bites here and there with partial and full manuscript requests, and finally an agent wants to talk. WHAT A FEELING! Celebrate it.
To be fair, you've worked so hard to get to this point, dealing with rejections and set backs and your beautiful little word baby being picked apart, so why wouldn't this day come? You persevered through it all. But now comes a whole new part of the process. An agent wants to talk. On the phone. About you and your book. HOLY PENCILS.
They might be calling to offer you an R&R (revise and resubmit) so definitely prepare for that outcome. But, this blog is more focused on the agent offering you representation -- the dream!
If you're on Twitter, or really actively involved in the writing community in any capacity, you'll know that this doesn't always have the best conversations surrounding it. We've all heard of dodgy agents doing dodgy dealings, as well as writers leaving their agents and agents dumping their writers. I have to assume at this point, that of receiving THE CALL, you've already done plenty of research on all the agents you've queried -- looked at their sales and the other clients they represent, or if they're new, the agency they're with or their previous experience. I'm not going to lecture you on this but I do also know the excitement and that almost desperation deep within to get an agent, so do make sure you research before querying.
But now you enter new territory (or maybe not) and suddenly you're having to think about next steps. My advice now, is to break your questioning down into three topics and make a note of the specific questions that are most important to you prior to having THE CALL.
You are interviewing the agent as much as they are interviewing you. Be professional, be polite, be courteous. But at the same time be relaxed and let the conversation flow. Keep your list of questions handy so you can refer to them as the call rolls forward, ticking off what you've already discussed so you can easily find anything that's outstanding. Everybody wants something different in an agent and every agent is different. The only way to find out if you and this agent are a good fit is through asking the right questions.
Here's a list of sample questions to add to your list. Of course, adapt them to suit your needs and you may indeed have more specific questions that relate to you - e.g. You're also an artist - will they submit your artwork with the written product as well? You were with an agent before who submitted this project to a handful of editors, is that a problem?
TOPIC 1: YOUR BOOK
What did they like about your book?
What changes, if any do they recommend?
How will edits happen - one pass or more?
What if you don't agree with their edits - are they up for discussion?
Will they edit the manuscript or will they use an intern/assistant?
Do they have a timeline or deadlines with the revision schedule?
TOPIC 2: THE SUBMISSION PROCESS
Where do they intend to submit the manuscript?
Do you get to see the pitch letter and list of editors submitted?
How often will they update you on editor responses?
When do they plan to chase the editors for responses?
How many submission rounds will there be?
Will each submission round be small - less than 10 editors per round?
Is it possible they might suggest further revisions after so many rejections?
If it's nothing but rejections, when and how will they decide to shelve this manuscript?
Do they submit more than one manuscript at a time?
Do they only submit to big publishing houses or to smaller presses as well?
TOPIC 3: THE FUTURE
Are they representing this book only or all your literary works?
What happens if multiple books don't sell - will they let you go?
Have they parted ways with other clients in the past - why?
What if you write a different genre/category to this book, will they represent those projects as well?
If you write a future book they don't love, will they still submit it to editors?
How editorial are they?
Will they help with brainstorming or do they prefer you to only send in finished and polished projects?
When you send them a new manuscript, what's their turnaround reading time?
Are they happy to offer you emotional support or are they more of a business-only partner?
Will they guide you with your author platform and social media presence as well?
Other points to consider:
Ask them if you may speak to some of their other clients for more insight. AND DO THIS.
When you have a contract, get some advice on it from a more knowledgeable source.
Ask them if they can give you two weeks to think about it so you can chase up other agents with the manuscript and do some further career checks.
If they say no or seem cagey about any of your questions and requests, file this as a red flag.
YOU CAN SAY NO TO THEIR OFFER.
No one will judge you if you choose not to accept the offer. NO ONE. And if they do they are more fool than you. Trusting your gut instinct is underrated so you have to get a feeling. Say it with me: NO AGENT IS BETTER THAN A BAD AGENT. Not all agent/author relationships work out and this can be devastating. It's sometimes impossible to predict if this will happen. True, some authors find out their needs later on in the process, after they've signed a contract, so signing on that dotted line always carries some degree of risk. But, if you've done your homework and asked all the questions you can, then be confident and CELEBRATE THE NOW!
Good luck, and feel free to DM me for a chat anytime.
Also, if there are any other questions you think I should add to the lists above, leave them in the comments below for other readers to see.
Thank you for reading!
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