Questions to Ask References

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 02 2020

When debating an offer of representation, or multiple offers, it’s acceptable to ask an agent for references. The question then becomes, what questions do you have for those references.

Thank you so much for all the helpful and encouraging posts and videos. I definitely feel more prepared as I start querying. Along the lines of questions to ask: I often hear about asking an offering agent for a few client names as references. Do you have any suggestions for good questions to ask an agent’s clients? Thanks!

From the blog post, Conversations to Have when Representation is Offered

Are References Necessary

Let me challenge you for a minute. If you don’t know what questions to ask, do you really feel the need to talk to references? Some authors do and some don’t. Like everything about this process, it’s personal.

If you already feel confident about the agents you’re speaking with you might not need to speak with references. If you feel overwhelmed and caught between your choices, references might help you make a decision.

The Questions

Having never been in this situation myself, I don’t have a list of questions for references like I do to ask agents. I do have some thoughts. My readers might have others.

  • What has been your experience overall with Agent?
  • How have you felt about their communication style?
  • Do they do editorial work with you?
  • Have there been any concerns about this agent?
  • Have you ever had a conflict and how was it handled?
  • Any tips you would give someone considering signing with this agent?

If you’re debating between two (or three) agents figure out what’s pulling you in either direction and use that guide for talking with other authors.

4 responses to “Questions to Ask References”

  1. Avatar Kelly Leffler says:

    This is excellent. Never would have thought to ask. Or what. Thank you for the transparency.

  2. Avatar RebeccaB says:

    I’m glad you said not everyone feels the need to ask for references. I’m not querying anyone unless I’ve already researched her and have at least a sense of who she is as a person and work ethic. We are coming to the agent, not the other way around, and should have already done our due diligence. Query Tracker is a great way to see how responsive an agent is to potential clients; Publisher’s Marketplace lists recent deals and deal history; Twitter, Blogs, Newsletters, and interviews can help you get a feel for someone’s personality. Not saying it’s foolproof, but it’s better than blindly querying a total stranger to help with your career and asking questions later.

  3. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    They seem pretty reasonable questions. I can’t think of anything else I’d want to ask.

  4. Avatar Sadie says:

    I was super wary of the publishing process on my last book, especially with working with a publisher not from these ends. Halfway into the process, the editor I had been working with had a fall-out with the publisher and she went as far as venting on FB. She didn’t work there anymore.
    The publisher introduced another editor but I reached out to the previous lady. You could tell from her words that she was still pissed at the publisher yet she encouraged me to go with her. Her words, “you’re better off there”.