Congrats, you got The Call!
This is a very exciting time, and you should be extremely proud of what you’ve accomplished in even getting to this point. You wrote a book! That another human loves! Enough to read it fifty zillion more times and try to sell it! Yay!
But, okay, now what?
Lucky for you, with the help of my friend and fellow PitchWars mentee Ian Barnes, I’ve managed to accrue quite the list of questions to ask agents on an offer call. You may find agents answer these spontaneously, without being asked, while they’re telling you what they love about your book and what they’d want to change about it, so these are just guidelines more than a script.
It’s also worth saying that I’ve referred back to the notes I made on these questions from my call with my current agents at least ten times since I signed with them. It’s super helpful when you’re, for example, mired in the pit of revisions and want to remind yourself that there are nice things about your book, to go back and reread what your agents said in response to the first question.
Here we go:
What about my book did you respond to?
Do you have editorial feedback?
What’s your editorial style?
How many clients do you have? (If new: How many clients would you like to have?)
Are you interested in representing only this book or all future books? Career or just this project? Prom date vs partner?
Author brand support beyond this book/series? How many books a year?
What sort of timeline do you envision for this book if I sign with you? Edits first? When would you want them by? When would we go on sub? How involved in the planning/drafting stage do you want to be?
What’s your submission plan? Small rounds? Big? How many?
Do you keep your authors informed about sub? Rejections, offers, who submitted to, etc.?
Where do you think my book fits in the market? How would you pitch it?
After a book sells, how actively involved do you stay in consulting on the publication process?
What if the book doesn’t sell? Or series doesn’t do well?
How do you handle idea generation? Do you want your authors to pitch ideas to you and you vet them? What if you don’t like my next idea? What if another client and I approached you with a similar idea?
What’s your preferred method of communication? Typical response time? Turnover rate on reviewing manuscripts? How often do you want authors to check in with you, and how?
Favorite recent non-client [category/genre] books?
How do you handle foreign rights? Film?
Do you work with a publicist? Do you do any publicity yourself?
Agency agreement: Can I see a copy prior to deciding? Is it per book or client? Would I be signing with the agency or with you? (i.e., if you change agencies, do I go with you?)
What kind of support staff do you have?
How does your agency support the client?
Can I speak to one or two of your clients about their experiences working with you?
(Ideally, someone who has sold and someone who hasn’t yet.)
Average duration of contract negotiation when selling a book?
Do you make any decisions on behalf of the author when evaluating offers from publishers? Will I have the opportunity to review any publishing contract before I sign? And would you or someone at your agency be able to walk me through any of the clauses I might not understand?
(Answers should be no/yes/yes)
If, down the line, you leave your agency for another, what happens to your clients? Do they come with you too or stay?
Do you audit royalty statements?
(Answer should be yes.)
Do you bill me for any submission supplies or costs? Do you take standard 15% commission?
What % of your clients make their living solely from writing?
Why should I sign with you as opposed to another agent?