Agent Q & A
Jenna Petersen

Once you get THE CALL from an agent, you'll want to be sure to ask a lot of questions, both about their business practices and the kind of relationship you can expect from them.  Here are the examples of what I ask, taken from the AAR Questionnaire, my own personal experiences and the experiences of other authors:

  1. Was there anything specific that made you decide that you wanted to represent my work?
  2. How do you keep clients informed on your efforts on their behalf?  How often would we be in contact?  Do you prefer email contact or by phone?  Generally what is your response time?
  3. Are you willing to discuss career-building with an unpublished client?  What kind of career-building measures do you take for a published client? 
  4. Are you interested in your clients only on a book-by-book basis, or do you see them as a whole writer (even if you only represent on a book-by-book basis)?
  5. What kind of relationship do you see us having?
  6. What do you think your greatest strength as an agent is?
  7. How does your submission process work?  Do you make phone calls to pitch full books or send proposals?
  8. How much input do you generally do on your clientsí work?
  9. Do you issue an agent-author agreement or contract?
  10. Are you a member of the Association of Authorís Representatives?
  11. How long have you been in business as an agent?
  12. What, if any, experience did you have in the industry before becoming an agent?
  13. Will any other people in your organization be handling my work at any time?
  14. What are your commission rates?  What are your procedures and time-frames for processing and distributing client funds?  Do you have different bank accounts for agency revenue versus author funds? 
  15. Do you charge for expenses?  If so, is there a limit yearly or per book?  Will these expenses be paid up front or taken from any sale I make along with your commission?
  16. What are your end-of-year tax activities like?  What information do you send to your clients and in what format?
  17. In the event of death or illness, what provisions do you make for continued representation?
  18. What are your policies if we should part company for any other reasons?
  19. Do you have any questions or expectations for me if I decide to take you on as my agent?
  20. Do you need to know about the work Iíve already done on my own behalf regarding this or any other book?  Would you like copies of my query letters and responses regarding this or any other book?

Remember, if a potential agent answers these questions in a way that makes you uncomfortable, charges you fees for reading, or does anything else that makes you feel weird... DON'T HIRE THEM.  A bad agent can do more harm than good.