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Questions to Ask When an Agent Offers Representation

I was recently asked by a reader to give a list of what questions I think an author should ask when an agent offers representation. There are a lot of places, like AAR, that offer a more technical approach to what an author should ask. However, since the author-agent relationship is a business partnership and a very personal one, I approached the question in a different way. I am offering the questions you should ask when you’re getting to know what type of working relationship you might expect from a business partner.

  • Do you use a written agreement or contract?
  • Do you sign an author up for just one book or more than one?
  • Will I be working exclusively with you or will another agent be handling my work?
  • Who else at your agency might I be working with?
  • How do you usually communicate with your authors and how often?
  • How hands-on are you editorially?
  • What is your editorial vision for the book? What changes do you see need to be made?
  • What is your submission strategy for my book?
  • Once I sign, can you tell me what our next steps will be?
  • Once we get an offer from a publisher what can I expect?
  • Will you communicate all offers to me before negotiating?
  • What happens if the project doesn’t sell?
  • Are you open to me writing in different genres?
  • At what point would we start discussing my next book idea?
  • How will we work together after my book has been sold?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions because they are personal. The answers that you should be looking for are the answers you want, not what your friend wants to hear. However, since it is always helpful to hear how an agent might answer these questions, I’ve created a YouTube video with my answers. Enjoy!

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6 comments

  1. Thank you! I am finishing my first young adult novel and will be looking for an agent soon. These questions are helpful.

  2. Thanks Jessica,
    My agent meeting is Tuesday afternoon, I’ve written down all the questions. He doesn’t represent children’s, but he is the agency owner and one of the agents does and the agency as a whole are seeking new authors in the north.

    I’ve researched the agent and the books she has had published, she seems quite new, only about 20% with already published books, and a good chunk of others already sold, so that looks promising.
    As I see it, I need to get David, the agent I’m meeting, excited enough about my work to tell his colleague about it.

      1. Thanks AJ,
        It went really really David is a fascinating man and owns a bookstore as well so knows both sides of the business.

        He suggested changes, I am going to make and asked to see the finished MS.
        Actually asked to see the finished MS.

        He doesn’t usually represent children’s, so I went in hoping for,as much feed back and advice as I could get and possibly a polite my “agent will be happy to read your MS when you’ve finished it.”

        I am so excited about the changes he suggested. I am now starting to understand the input and support of an agent, after a 20 minute meeting that lasted 3/4 of an hour.

        Thank you Jessica,
        I didn’t need to ask any of the questions, but during the panel event it was helpful to know what to look for in answers for all agents there.

  3. Love the list and the fact your youtube channel has your answers. NowI just have to wait until the Barbarians aren’t around so I can unblock youtube and watch (otherwise they will watch people playing games (!) instead of doing homework *sigh*).

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