9 Questions to Ask Before Signing with a Literary Agent

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Since I feel as though I’ve gotten so much help along the path to getting my literary agent

… I wanted to pass on a little more wisdom for all the querying writers out there!

Namely, I wanted to share my list of questions I had prepared to ask my agent when we had The Call.

To come up with this list, I did some internet research + asked my mentor extraordinaire for help. Here’s what I came up with:

1. What did you like about the book?

Besides the fact that it’s nice to hear compliments, this is a great way to get to know how your potential agent reacts to your work.

2. How much editorial work do you think this needs? 

Because nothing is perfect. It’s also a good way to gauge how hands-on they’ll be with revisions.

3. What’s your communication style? How often will we be in communication? 

I think it’s best to know this up front. You’re not your agent’s only client, after all, and it helps to manage expectations.

4. How many editors do you submit to? 

This is making sure they’re the kind of agent who doesn’t give up super easily!

5. What happens if this book doesn’t sell? Would you look at another of my books? 

I wanted an agent who’d be with me for the length of my career, and I’m assuming you do, too. Fortunately my agent answered this question preemptively by explaining she likes to have long relationships with her clients.

Of course, there should also be an out for both of you if things don’t happen to work out, and I made sure that was an option, too.

6. What if I write something in a different genre?

This may not be relevant to you, but I chose an agent who only represents children’s literature. That’s perfect for me, since I write YA, but I do think that someday I might tackle an adult novel, so it’s nice to know there’s a plan in place for that eventuality.

7. Do you handle foreign rights? 

An optimistic question for sure, but it’s good to know what their foreign rights policy is (20 – 25% is standard) as well as book and movie rights (SUPER optimistic to ask that, but good to know!)

8. What does the agency agreement look like?

And ask them to send a copy over for you to look at!

9. Can I talk to any of your clients?

This one I actually forgot to ask, but since I signed with an older, reputable agency and an experienced agent with a proven track record, I didn’t really feel like I had to. If you’re signing with a newer agent and/or agency, I’d ask this, though.

Then it’s totally normal to ask to take a week to think about it. They won’t expect you to answer right away. I took that time to give birth, have a lawyer friend look over the contract, and notify the few agents who hadn’t responded to me yet or one who’d requested a partial.

And then I said yes!

Are there any questions you’d add? Anything else you want to know about the querying process? Let me know!

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