Guest Post by Laura Cross and you can win a free copy of her ebook – details at the end of her article.
Every writer knows that finding a literary agent can be challenging. Often authors are so happy to finally connect with an agent who wants to work with them that they simply sign a contract with the first agent who offers representation. Selecting an agent is a serious business decision and should be carefully considered. You want to ensure the agent is the best one for your book and the right match for your writing career.
Here is a list of questions to consider asking your potential agent before signing the dotted line:
- How do you feel about my book and its potential?
The response you receive will help you gage her enthusiasm for the project. You need an agent who will champion your book and not give up after receiving a few rejections.
- Do you feel the manuscript or proposal needs edits before you begin pitching the book to publishers?
Her response will give you an idea of the scope of edits she is expecting and how long it will take to make the changes before she actually begins selling the project. It can also help you decide if you agree with her comments and are willing to make the requested revisions.
- How do you plan to market my book?
The agent should be able to provide a clear strategy to sell your book. Will she pitch to several publishers at once or only one at a time? How many editors will she approach and what publishing houses will she submit to? If she cannot illustrate her plan, then she may be a disorganized and ineffective salesperson.
- How often should I contact you?
It’s best to have an understanding of expectations regarding communication before entering an agreement with the agent. If your hope is to be able to contact her once a week and she implies that anything more than once per month is inappropriate, then she is probably not the right agent for you.
- How often should I expect to receive updates?
It is important to determine if you are a match regarding correspondence. Are you comfortable receiving an e-mail update once every two months or do you prefer contact by telephone at least twice per month?
- How many authors do you currently represent?
If she represents a small number of clients she will likely have plenty of time to focus on you and your book – but do ask why she has so few clients. If the number of clients she represents is large (more than 50), ask her how she manages so many authors. Does she have assistants and sub-agents? Find out how she plans to provide the attention necessary for your book to succeed.
- How many of your current clients are published?
The percentage of authors for whom she has actually landed a book deal can provide insight into her sales ability.
- On average how many [insert genre] books do you sell a year?
If your prospective agent represents a variety of fiction genres but she has only sold romance novels and you write urban fantasy, it may indicate that — while she may be enthusiastic about urban fantasy fiction and want to represent you — she may lack the experience and connections to garner publishing deals for your genre. In such a case, if you decide to proceed with her as your agent, ensure she has a strong marketing strategy in place for your book – not simply an enthusiastic attitude.
- What commissions do you charge?
The standard industry commission is 15 percent. You should not be charged a higher rate. If the agent offers a “reduced commission” plus a small “representation fee” – run fast in the other direction because such an “offer” is a scam.
10. What subsidiary rights have you sold for your clients and how is that handled?
You want an agent who is competent in selling different types of subsidiary rights – book clubs, film rights, foreign rights, audio, serial rights. If your agent lacks this skill you risk losing potential profits and exposure you would otherwise acquire with the sale of subsidiary rights. Some agencies have in-house departments that exclusively handle subsidiary rights. Some agents sub-contract other agents to handle the sales of these rights. For instance, your agent may work with a literary agent in Hollywood to handle selling film and television rights because the Hollywood agent has better connections in the entertainment industry. It is always to the author’s benefit to have subsidiary rights retained by the agent. If your prospective agent informs you that she usually allows the publisher to retain the rights, you need to consider how such a policy will impact your long-term career.
11. What is your procedure and timeframe for payment of authors’ royalties and advances received from the publisher?
All payments due to you from your publisher will be paid to your agent. Your agent deducts his or her commission and any additional agreed upon expenses from the publisher’s check and then issues you the remaining balance. An ethical agent who follows standard business practices should have a non-interest bearing ‘holding’ account for client monies that is entirely separate from the agency bank account. You want to deal with an efficient and organized agent who will issue your payment to you in a timely manner. Her response to this question should indicate that she has good business practices and a well-managed system in place for sending authors’ payments.
12. If you do not sell my book within a specific period of time, what happens?
Will the agent drop you as a client, allow you the option to find another agent, or continue to work with you to create another project to pitch?
Add a question or a comment. I’ll do my best to answer the questions. Laura’s swamped. In about 10 days I’ll shut both eyes and pick a comment in as random a fashion as I can and the lucky winner will get a free ebook version of Laura’s book The Complete Guide To Hiring A Literary Agent: Everything You Need To Know To Become Successfully Published.
Laura Cross is an author, screenwriter, ghostwriter, freelance book editor, and writing coach specializing in nonfiction books and script adaptation (book-to-film projects). She writes two popular blogs, www.NonfictionInk.com and www.AboutAScreenplay.com, and teaches online writing workshops www.ScenarioWritingStudio.com/workshops. Her latest book is The Complete Guide To Hiring A Literary Agent: Everything You Need To Know To Become Successfully Published. You can download a free chapter, view the book trailer, read the full table of contents, and purchase the eBook at www.GetALiteraryAgent.com.